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Japan impose “stricter rules” governing use of drones weighing as little as 100 grams

By Chris Stonor

The Japanese government is going ahead to tighten its rules governing drone use to include lightweight, smaller and more sophisticated models now hitting the market, reports asahi.com. This move is partly in response to growing public concerns about recent accidents and irresponsible operators.

While drones weighing 200 grams or more are already covered by the Civic Aeronautics Law, the revamp will now include lighter ones weighing as little as 100 grams. Recent technological advances in the unmanned craft market has led to smaller and faster models that are deemed now more risky.

Drone regulations were first introduced by the Japanese government in 2015. Operators must first gain official permission to operate a drone at an event venue, over overcrowded areas, at night, or in places where it is out of visual line of sight.

Toy drones weighing less than 200 grams, are not covered by existing regulations, except when they are flown 150 metres or higher or close to airports. But there are growing concerns about accidents and incidents involving drones. The transport ministry said it received 83 negative reports involving drones during 2019.

A rash of instances occurred between October and November last year, when multiple witnesses reported seeing suspected rogue drone flights at Kansai Airport. Runways were shut down on at least four occasions, delaying flights.

When the government drew up the 2015 legislation, the functions and abilities of toy drones were considered to be very limited. For instance, it assumed they would be mainly flown in small indoor areas. Even if the drones failed in mid-flight and hit people or objects on the ground, it was presumed any damage would be minimal.

But five years on, technology has created much more sophisticated craft. The devices, which can be purchased at electronic retail stores, are not only smaller and fly faster but also more stable outdoors. Even the propellers rotate faster on smaller models.

As drones come with enhanced capability despite their light-weight, complaints have come in from the public about the risk of people being injured or property damaged in the event something goes wrong.

The Japanese government responded by revising the Civil Aeronautics Law in June and decided to mandate drone registration by 2022. The registry information will include the names and addresses of owners and operators. The government are also looking to tighten regulations to include smaller classes of drones that can maintain stable flight outdoors in windy conditions. With such craft being used for a wider range of purposes, the number of permits being issued is also rising.

Drones are often used for aerial filming, crop dusting, geographical measurement and deliveries as well as for recreational use.

Meanwhile, the Japanese drone market is booming. Impress Corp.’s research department in Tokyo estimates that the market size in Japan for drones in 2019 almost quadrupled from 2016 to Y140.9 billion. It projects a further four-fold increase to Y642.7 billion by 2025.

Yet, the government intends to encourage the larger commercial use of drones by allowing operators to fly drones BVLOS in areas where people live or work in 2022.

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(News Source: https://www.asahi.com)

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