Drone delivery in Japan is a reality, as the government has begun successful testing of delivery to homes in the special de-regularized zone in the city of Chiba.
Drones carrying bottles of wine and cartons of milk traveled between different points in the city. The drones successfully delivered packages in parks, to businesses, and to the roof of a residential building.
The drone delivery system will now be tested for distances, traveling between Tokyo Bay to Chiba – about 10 km ( a little over 6 miles.) The government hopes to improve stable flight technology during rain and wind, and to develop an air traffic control system for drones.
Meanwhile, Japanese companies are lining up to plan and test drone delivery applications. Rakuten, Japan’s e-commerce giant; PC and IT Services provider NEC, and supermarket chain Aeon all have plans to utilize drone delivery. Rakuten’s plans are among the most innovative and well-publicized: the company plans to offer services offering drone delivery of refreshments to golfers along the course. They will begin testing the application in May at a golf course in Chiba. They system would allow golfers to place orders for drinks, refreshments, or new golf balls using a mobile phone; drones dispatched from a center near the clubhouse will deliver the items to the golfer. All of the Japanese companies hope drone delivery will be broadly legalized by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in 2020.
Current drone laws in Japan, implemented after a drone carrying a small quantity of radioactive material landed on the roof of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office in Tokyo, prohibit drones from flying over people or around airports or other important buildings. However, the Japanese government has been active in trying to ensure that the commercial drone industry was supported by designated special “deregulation zones” – like the city of Chiba – for testing drone technology. The government also plans to implement drone delivery to deliver medicines to remote areas of Japan by 2018; that plan would also require new laws to allow drone flight over crowded areas and the implementation of air traffic control for drones.
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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