Japan Post Co. on Wednesday began transporting documents by drone in Fukushima Prefecture, the first operation of its kind in Japan, following easing of regulations to cope with labor shortages in the transport industry.
The company said it will initially use drones to carry its own documents and advertisements between two post offices in the northeastern prefecture to examine whether the unmanned aircraft can be used to carry mail. In the future, it hopes to use drones for deliveries to mountainous regions and remote islands.
It launched the operation after the government eased related regulations in September.
Prior to easing restrictions, an operator was required to keep the drone in view. But the new regulations allow for longer flights if safety can be ensured remotely through measures such as equipping the drone with a camera.
The Japan Post drone, carrying brochures for New Year's cards and pictures of drones drawn by children, left a post office in the city of Minamisoma at around 9 a.m. and arrived at a post office in the town of Namie, 9 kilometers away, 15 minutes later.
"This will be a turning point for logistics. I'm happy to receive these drawings full of dreams," Namie Mayor Kazuhiro Yoshida said.
Japan Post plans to operate the drone, capable of flying at a maximum speed of 54 kph and carrying up to two kilograms of goods, six days a month and up to two round-trips a day for the time being.