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LDP to push for drone no-go zones

Lawmakers propose penalties for flying over important sites

Kyodo, JIJI

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is seeking to ban drone flights over important facilities such as the prime minister’s office and impose penalties on violators, according to a draft bill on drone regulations.

Under the envisaged law, violators would face up to one year in prison or a fine of up to ¥500,000 if they fly drones over key facilities, including the Diet building, the Supreme Court and the Imperial Palace.

The foreign minister would designate such no-fly areas above foreign embassies, while the internal affairs minister would do so over the offices of the country’s political parties upon request, according to the draft overview.

Currently, there are no laws to regulate drone flights, and calls have grown for creating one since a drone with trace amounts of radioactive cesium was found on the roof of the prime minister’s office on April 22.

The incident raised concern that drones could be used for terrorism. A man was arrested after admitting that he flew the drone to the prime minister’s office to protest nuclear policy.

The LDP is also considering designating areas around 300 meters from key facilities as no-fly zones, with people defying orders from police to be fined, according to the bill overview.

LDP lawmakers are hoping to build a consensus within the party as early as this week so the bill can be submitted to the Diet this session.

In a related move, the Abe administration plans to require a license for operating high-specification drones that can travel at least 5 km, informed sources said.

By using the license system, the administration aims to make it easier to identify drone operators and prevent drone-related accidents, the sources said.

Because the operation of high-performance drones involves the use of strong radio waves, the government hopes to oblige operators to acquire a special license mainly for taxi radios, the sources said.

Still, the necessity of the regulatory step is uncertain, because many drones on the market do not have such a long range and therefore will not be subject to the new rule.

Separately, the government is considering introducing a system to register the names and addresses of people who purchase a drone.

The government is also looking at prohibiting drone flights over important facilities such as the prime minister’s office and the Diet.

Currently, there are no rules restricting the flying of drones at altitudes below 250 meters, except in certain areas such as near airports.