Tokyo police studying technology to detect, capture drones


Tokyo police are studying technology for capturing suspicious drones as part of efforts to boost surveillance of airspace above important facilities, following the recent discovery of a drone on the roof of the prime minister’s office, Jiji Press learned Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Police Department will also examine whether unidentified drones can be detected by security cameras that respond to heat sources, among other methods, government sources said.

The police arrested a 40-year-old man on Saturday over his alleged involvement in the high-profile incident, after a small unmanned aerial vehicle was found on the roof of the prime minister’s office in central Tokyo on April 22.

The incident occurred as Japan is preparing to host international events including a summit of the Group of Seven countries next year.

To address any potential security threat from drones, the MPD is stepping up preparations to introduce equipment that uses cutting-edge technology, the sources said.

According to the sources, the department plans to study whether it is possible to capture suspicious drones using police drones carrying nets.

French authorities are said to be developing such a method in an effort to fight terrorism, and the MPD is gathering related information.

After the drone incident, Tokyo police strengthened the monitoring of airspace above important facilities, including the prime minister’s office, the National Diet Building, the Imperial Palace and nearby areas.

MPD officers have been deployed to the roof of the prime minister’s office, but visual checks alone cannot fully protect key facilities from drone attacks.

Regarding security cameras that detect heat sources, the MPD is working with manufacturers to check their ability to respond to the heat of drone batteries and motors.

The police are also considering employing radar, and technologies for identifying flight sounds, the sources said.

In addition, the MPD is looking at a method of blocking the radio control of drones by jamming signals. Using the method would require a legislative change and coordination with relevant government ministries.

Shooting down drones with guns is not a realistic option due to technical difficulty and safety concerns, the sources said.

An MPD official said the department plans to promote efficient measures to deal with drones by introducing cutting-edge technologies for airspace surveillance and increasing the number of riot police officers patrolling the neighborhood of important facilities.

The U.S. government is also struggling to detect small aircraft that fly slowly and at low altitudes.

On Wednesday, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta told a House committee that a small gyrocopter that flew across miles of the country’s most restricted airspace before landing at the U.S. Capitol was “indistinguishable” from other nonaircraft such as a flock of birds, a kite or a balloon.

He said that the slow-moving gyrocopter appeared as an “irregular symbol” on radar monitored by air traffic controllers. Huerta and other officials said the small, unidentified object did not pose an apparent threat before landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn April 15.

Navy Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said small aircraft such as gyrocopters represent a “technical and operational challenge” for the military.

The gyrocopter incident “has further confirmed the need to continue to improve our ability to identify low-altitude and slow-speed aerial vehicles” operating in the skies above the nation’s capital, Gortney told the House Oversight Committee.