Japan Lower House passes bill restricting drone flights

JIJI

The Lower House passed a bill on Thursday that’s designed to ban the flying of drones near the prime minister’s office and other important facilities.

The bill was approved by a majority vote at a Lower House plenary meeting, with support from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its Komeito ally and opposition parties including the Democratic Party of Japan.

It was sent to the House of Councilors and is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session, which has been extended to Sept. 27.

The LDP drew up the bill after a small, unidentified drone carrying a small amount of radioactive material was found on the roof of the prime minister’s office in April. The party submitted the bill to the Diet jointly with Komeito and two opposition parties — Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) and Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations).

The original bill designated venues such as the Imperial Palace, the prime minister’s office and the Supreme Court building as important facilities. Nuclear power plants and other facilities were added to the list later.

Flying drones near these facilities would be prohibited if the bill is enacted. Violators would face imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to ¥500,000. Paragliders would also be subject to the flight restrictions.

The government is considering submitting a separate bill to revise the aviation law to prohibit drone flights near airports and densely populated areas.

A man in Fukui Prefecture has been indicted over the incident in April for obstructing business of the prime minister’s office by flying the small unmanned vehicle on to the office’s roof.