The Abe administration is stepping up efforts to improve the safety of drones as it seeks to develop a delivery service for depopulated areas, such as remote islands, by 2018, a government source said.

The cost of developing the private-sector service is expected to be incorporated in next year's fiscal budget, the source said Monday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to draw up necessary measures for the drone delivery program within the next three years. The administration sees drone-related services as an important way to support elderly people and to deliver relief goods in disaster areas.

The government is also aiming to help private-sector companies so they can start a drone home delivery service in urban areas by 2020, when Tokyo will host the next Summer Olympics, the source said.

According to a government survey conducted in February and March, only 18 percent of local governments across the country were positive toward using a drone delivery service.

Amid safety concerns, the Abe administration is planning to join hands with the private sector to develop drone safety technology in a bid to expand utilization of services using the unmanned devices, the source said.