Restrictions for Drones in Japan

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The transport ministry has drawn up a bill aimed at introducing restrictions on drone flights, following incidents earlier this year, including one in April in which a small unidentified drone was flown on to the roof of the prime minister’s office in central Tokyo.

The bill to amend the aviation law, submitted to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Division of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday, stipulates that flying drones over densely populated areas and such facilities as airports should be banned unless permission from the transport minister is obtained.

The LDP division approved the amendment.

The government is expected to formalize the bill at a Cabinet meeting soon, aiming for its enactment during the current Diet session, which has been extended through Sept. 27.

The draft bill defines unmanned aircraft, which are not specified in the current law, as machines that fly by remote control or automated operation.

The ministry is considering setting no-fly zones in areas with a population density of 4,000 per sq. kilometer or more. Specifics will be set in a relevant ordinance.

In areas other than no-fly zones, drones can be flown between sunrise and sunset, and the drones and surrounding areas should be constantly monitored visually during the flights, according to the draft bill.

The bill would also ban the flying of drones over sites for events such as festivals and exhibitions, and other places where many people gather. In addition, it says that drones should not carry dangerous objects such as explosives.

The draft calls for imposing a fine of up to ¥500,000 on people who fly drones in no-fly zones without permission and fail to follow the flight rules.

Drones to be operated by public institutions for such activities as search and rescue operations in disasters would be exempt from the flight ban and rules.

In a related move earlier this month, the LDP, its coalition partner Komeito, and two opposition parties — Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) and the Party for Future Generations — submitted to the Diet a bill to ban drone flights near important facilities such as the prime minister’s office and the Imperial Palace.

A man from Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, has been indicted for forcible obstruction of business in connection with the drone found on the roof of the prime minister’s office.


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