National

Government mulls ban on flying drones at night

Kyodo

The government is considering banning drone flights at night, according to an outline of new regulations on how the unmanned aircraft should be used.

The move follows the arrest of a man who landed a drone carrying a minuscule amount of radioactive material on the prime minister’s office to protest the government’s push to kick-start Japan’s nuclear energy industry.

In addition to the ban on nighttime drone flights, the envisaged rules would only allow users who take certain safety steps to fly their drones in residential areas and near airports.

Drone manufacturers, meanwhile, would be required to develop a system that uses GPS to limit the flight of drones in such restricted areas, according to the outline.

The government will continue working out details of the rules, aiming to submit bills to revise relevant laws during the current Diet session, scheduled to end later this month.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is separately drawing up a bill to designate no-fly zones over important national facilities, including the prime minister’s office, and impose penalties on violators.

The outline was compiled Tuesday by a panel involving the National Police Agency, the transport ministry and other government offices.

While calling for regulations as more individuals have purchased drones, the outline also acknowledged the importance of setting up industry-friendly rules and safeguarding the future development of drone technology.

Officials often cite the possibilities of using drones or robots in a way that benefits society, such as searching for survivors in natural disasters as well as checking the level of radiation at Tepco’s wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In a related move, police served a 40-year-old man with a fresh arrest warrant Wednesday on suspicion of illegally modifying warning flares mounted on a drone which he flew onto the roof of the prime minister’s office in April.

Yasuo Yamamoto was earlier indicted on a charge of obstructing work at the prime minister’s office over the drone incident.

The former Air Self-Defense Force member, is alleged to have maneuvered the drone onto the roof during pre-dawn hours on April 9. The drone was found on April 22. He turned himself in to police on April 24 and was indicted on May 15.

The drone was mounted with two modified warning flares as well as a small camera and a plastic container carrying sand contaminated with radioactive cesium, according to the police. The warning apparently had not been fired.