Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment to the commercial drone industry, Japan has passed new regulations on the flights of hobby drones. The new laws will take effect on Thursday, the Japantimes reports, despite industry concern that the strict regulations will put a damper on innovation in the emerging drone sector.
The new laws, passed by the Diet in September, will ban flights of drones weighing more than 200 grams (7 ounces, or 2 ounces less than the proposed registration limit in the US) in heavily populated areas, at altitudes 150 meters (492 ft) or more, and near airports. Exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
The restriction against flying in heavily populated areas means that hobby drones will be banned in most Japanese cities, and all of Tokyo’s 23 wards. The restrictions also state that flights must remain a distance of 30 meters (98 ft) from people, buildings and cars. Drone flight is banned entirely over large crowds such as sporting events and festivals.
The law excepts humanitarian and emergency uses of drones.
A separate bill, now awaiting approval in the Upper House of the Diet, will ban drone flight over certain government and utility buildings such as the prime minister’s office, the Diet building, the Imperial Palace and nuclear power plants. This bill was introduced after a drone found on the roof of the prime minister’s office in April was discovered to be carrying radioactive material.
The government is still working with a panel of public and private drone advocates to enact regulations that will promote the development of the commercial drone sector, which Abe has referred to as a significant part of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The panel is scheduled to deliver recommendations next year.
Japan is the latest region to declare strict restrictions on hobby drones in cities, following the lead of many individual states in the US.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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