Monday, September 16, 2013

Low-flying aircraft with laser to scope Hawaii for months

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responding following dozens of inquiries about a low-flying aircraft that appeared to be shining a green light into Oahu neighborhoods.

Residents told Hawaii News Now they saw the plane at all hours of the night.

"This airplane was circling around the Ewa Beach area early this morning around 1 a.m. It circled about 6 times, passing over my house. There was this wide green laser that appears to be scanning downward," wrote one viewer in an email.

"[There was a] low flying aircraft over Honolulu the past two nights shining green lasers from the bottom," another viewer said. "Aircraft made multiple passes. At least six over Waikiki, Moiliili, Kapahulu, Manoa area with a V-shaped green laser pointed down."

The plane is a military aircraft that is collecting LiDAR data, says Joseph Bonfiglio, Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The green laser, which Bonfiglio notes is not harmful to the eyes, is being used to map the coast of the entire state.  The data will eventually be used to create a high-resolution map.

LiDAR flights are being conducted in the overnight hours on Oahu due to flight restrictions noted by the Federal Aviation Administration. Work on Oahu should wrap up by the end of the week. The mapping will then move to the outer islands and be conducted during daytime hours, Bonfiglio says.

Data collection is expected to continue through November.