Japan Adjusts Drone Regulations to Support Industry

Government officials in Japan announced that they are planning to change current drone regulations to allow drones to transmit higher-resolution video from more remote locations, the Asian Review reports.  Legislators hope that the changes will support expansion of commercial drone applications.

Most recent changes to Japan’s drone legislation were enacted only a few weeks ago, when rules were made prohibiting unmanned flight over densely populated areas and near airports.  Now the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications plans to change current restrictions on radio transmission as another step in Japan’s efforts to create a regulatory framework that balances safety and promotion of commercial interests.

Drones are currently usually operated by Wi-Fi; but heavily utilized radio frequencies can make it difficult or impossible to transmit high-quality video.  The Japanese solution is to designate frequencies in the now-unused ranges of 5.7GHz and 2.4GHz for specific use by drones.  While Japan currently caps radio signals controlling drones at 10-milliwats, which allows them to transmit images to a radius of about 300 meters, new legislation would increase the limit to 1 watt, allowing transmission of images to around 5km.

This will enable transmission of high-quality video for a variety of applications: such as construction and engineering.

The new rules could be written into policy as early as the summer of 2016.

Legislators are also considering implementing regulations concerning the flight of drones outside of the pilot’s line of sight, something US legislators have lagged on, sending many companies to Japan and other countries to test new commercial drone applications.  Amazon will test package delivery in the Chiba, one of Japan’s deregulation zones; Sony will offer drone-based service for housing construction in 2016.  Japan’s own government agencies are also implementing new drone uses:  the Ibaraki Prefecture will start using drones to monitor for the illegal disposal of industrial waste.