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Japan’s drone use set to take off with deregulation

Mar 16. 2019
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By The Japan News/ANN

The relaxation of regulations on drone operations has spurred the expansion of their fields of use, with some delivering

The latest in drones are being unveiled at Japan Drone 2019, one of the nation’s largest drone fairs, which runs through Friday at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba.

Flying out of sight

 “We’ll change the airspace where only birds and radio waves flew into a place to do our business,” said Keisuke Toji, representing start-up Aeronext Inc., during his speech Wednesday at the venue.

 The company’s drones unveiled at the show are made to stay balanced for stable flight during times of strong wind or gusts. The company also improved the performance of the motor so that the drones can be used for deliveries that usually require the aircraft to fly a longer distance.

 Before deregulation, the operation of drones in Japan had been limited to those within the user’s sight. This made drones usable only in areas such as aerial photography and surveying. To promote the use of drones, the government revised aviation rules in September last year to allow drones to fly out of sight of the user, as long as the drones fly over remote islands, mountainous areas and other places people are unlikely to set foot in.  

 The government plans to allow such drone flights in urban areas from 2022 as a way to cope with the shortage of workers in the parcel delivery business.

Market set to boom

 Taking advantage of deregulation, from June telecommunications giant KDDI Corp. will offer services to fly drones over out-of-sight places to inspect infrastructure and for search operations during alpine accidents.

 Rakuten Inc., which runs e-commerce services among other activities, will start deliveries by drones in less-populated areas within fiscal 2019. It has already cooperated with companies and local governments to conduct proving tests for drone deliveries.

 The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is among the organizations that are planning to put into practical use by 2020 a system to manage drones’ routes to avoid air collisions.

 According to research firm Impress Corp., the domestic drone market is expected to increase tenfold from ¥50.3 billion ($452 million) in fiscal 2017 to ¥507.3 billion in fiscal 2024. Fields such as parcel delivery are expected to grow and new entrants to the market are likely to accelerate.

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