The leading drone manufacturer in the world, DJI, is trying to enter the Japanese market despite Japan’s strict drone laws for hobby and recreational drones.
DJI’s Phantom 4 was introduced last week here in the US to great fanfare about the drone’s new obstacle avoidance features. DJI Japan General Manager Allen Wu introduced the Phantom 4 to Japanese consumers on Thursday at a shopping center in Tokyo.
DJI offered a demonstration of the Phantom 4 with a choreographed and impressive show of the drone following a stunt bicycle-rider, and successfully dodging obstacles along the way.
While China-based DJI reportedly has over 70% of the market in consumer drones, the Japanese market has not been fully explored, although the photography and videography market in Japan is significant. This is partly due to Japan’s drone laws; while friendly overall to the commercial drone market, recreational drones have been heavily regulated. An incident last spring, when a drone carrying radioactive material landed on the roof of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, led to the speedy enactment of laws prohibiting the use of recreational drones in crowded areas including all major cities. According to UAV Systems International, current laws not only prohibit the use of drones over crowds and important buildings, but Japanese cities Osaka and Tokyo have also prohibited drone use in all city parks and community green space.
Japanese legislators have been careful to support the drone industry, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls a large part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and have proposed regulations that will open traffic corridors, special bandwidth, and de-regulated testing zones for commercial drones. Yamaha Motors and Japanese company Aerosense both manufacture commercial drones, but there is little Japanese competition in the consumer marketplace.
DJI seems to be betting that the regulations for consumer drones will soften as drones become more common, and Japanese consumers will adopt them as enthusiastically as photographers elsewhere. For now, flights of the Phantom 4 in Tokyo may be limited to the inside of shopping malls like the one in which it was introduced.
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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