KDDI to start using drones to search for missing hikers on Mount Fuji

Kyodo

Mobile phone carrier KDDI Corp. said Thursday it plans to start using drones to support rescue operations and search for missing hikers on Mount Fuji from next summer, aiming to eventually expand the service to other areas.

KDDI successfully conducted a trial in conjunction with the Gotemba Municipal Government, a city to the west of the 3,776-meter-high peak; Yamap Inc., a developer of smartphone map applications; and weather information provider Weathernews Inc.

During a simulated search operation carried out in late October, the drone was able to locate the position of a missing hiker who was carrying a device with global positioning capabilities, and help observe the status of the person in need of assistance.

Coupled with a newly developed system that monitors and forecasts weather conditions, a drone operator selected the most suitable flight route to the location of the missing person so that rescuers could be mobilized.

KDDI said it plans to add a microphone and a speaker to the drone in the future so that rescuers and hikers can communicate. The company also plans to give the drone the ability to carry cargo such as food and batteries.

With more seniors and young women enjoying hiking, the number of accidents in Japan increased to 3,111 last year from the less than 1,000 seen 20 years ago.

The drone, weighing about 4 kilograms, can travel at 64 kph (40 mph) and operate in winds of up to 18 meters per second (60 feet per second).