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UH’s proposal would turn the skies above us into dangerous experiment

VIEWPOINT

Massive football-field-sized drones flying above us, beaming down harmful, invisible radiation onto the land and the ocean, into our homes, into our bodies. Sounds like something out of a nightmare science experiment.

But the University of Hawaii proposes to conduct this science experiment, called HAWK30, right here in Maui County. Major funding comes from tech giant SoftBank of Japan, defense contractor AeroVironment of California, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

UH wants to use Lanai as a launch pad for giant drones flying high in the atmosphere carrying wireless communications relays and transmitting signals into air, land and sea. Final plans are to turn the rural island into a drone-manufacturing plant and launch site potentially flying thousands of massive drones, forming a network for the so-called “Internet of Things” while blanketing the Earth in wireless radiation.

Trust has been an issue from the start with this secretive project. UH built a huge, 16,500-square-foot hangar to house two of the giant drones on agricultural land without public notice and prior to a Lanai Planning Commission meeting, showing a lack of good faith.

But that’s not all. UH is now asking the commission for an “after-the-fact” permit to build a second airport on Lanai, meaning the request came after they had already built their airport on agricultural land without permits or approvals.

Hawaiian practitioners have sought to intervene in the application process. They are concerned about impacts to cultural practices and the prohibited use of agricultural land for airport purposes. The fact that the proposal does not describe removal of the airport when the experiment is completed is also a concern.

UH has shown a lack of transparency by providing very little information about the project. Completely missing from their application is a timeline and a business plan, as well as the specific frequency range of electromagnetic radiation the drones will transmit.

Radiation harm is a big concern in this experiment, as one HAWK30 drone broadcasts the equivalent of 1,800 cell towers. UH says they will transmit at a much lower power level, however radiation is not made safe by reducing the power. Hundreds of research studies show the effects of low-power wireless radiation on humans and the environment.

In addition to irradiating all life forms within its range, this type of massive unmanned drone has a troubling safety record. Two high-altitude drones have been built by AeroVironment and they both fell from the sky and crashed. For the nerds among us, here’s a scary calculation: a 1.5-ton HAWK30 falling from its approved altitude could have disastrous effects as only 2,300 Newtons of force crush a human skull wearing a helmet. Falling from a height of 70,000 feet, a 1.5-ton object would hit with 266,756,000 Newtons of force! That’s a devastating impact.

The giant drone would encounter air resistance, but if it plummets with its lithium batteries propelling down like bombs and its 10 propeller blades slicing through the air, it could kill and maim people, dolphins, whales and other creatures. The drone’s approved fly zone is in the middle of our Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, includes Lanai, Molokini, and Kahoolawe, and skirts along south Maui’s finest beaches.

It is clear that corporate giants like Google and SoftBank do not have our interests in mind. Instead, they disrespect the will of the people as expressed by our laws and community planning process and expose us to major health and safety risks without our consent.

Although Lanai may benefit from a more diversified economy, allowing harmful industrial uses on agricultural land and granting after-the-fact approvals would undermine the community planning processes that allow the people of Lanai to determine what kind of diversified economy they want.

Join us in opposing UH’s proposal to turn the skies above us into a dangerous science experiment, and in condemning UH’s disregard for our local laws and planning processes by building first and seeking permission later. Learn more and consider signing our petition at www.KeepYourPower.org/drone.

* Debra Greene, Ph.D., of Kihei is an author, educator, wellness consultant and founder of KeepYourPower.org, “a group of educated, concerned residents of the Hawaiian Islands who have joined in the global effort to limit and/or stop harmful wireless technologies (including 5G and smart meters) from being deployed in our precious islands,” according to its website.