In what is being hailed as the nation’s first police drone deployment over a major sporting event, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department announced Saturday that it will send up a squadron of patrol UAVs at the Tokyo Marathon at the end of the month.
According to the Tokyo Times, the drones will be tasked with both surveillance and anti-drone patrol to bolster the 90 officers who will be running alongside marathoners in an attempt to thwart potential terrorist and security threats.
The marathon will provide the first real action seen by the department’s “drone squad,” a special police unit tasked with locating and capturing errant drones flown by civilians. The squad will operate anti-drone drones with specially designed nets to catch rogue drones flying in restricted airspace.
The unit tested the drone squad in January during an anti-terrorism drill. Staged in the parking lot of Tokyo’s Big Sight Convention Center (the same location of the marathon’s finish line), the meter-wide drone deployed a 3×2-meter net and successfully captured a test UAV as described by the Japan Times:
“After an unidentified drone took off from a boat anchored in Tokyo Bay and flew toward the parking lot, [test] runners and spectators were evacuated and the interceptor drone was mobilized. The police drone quickly flew close to the suspicious drone, which was hovering, and captured it using the net.”
As previously reported in DRONELIFE, the Japanese legislature passed stricter drone regulations in September, banning drone flights by UAVs “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.”
“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.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
Subscribe to DroneLife here.