Japanese authorities are introducing a variety of measures to prevent the wrongful use of drones, which has been increasing due to many people being unfamiliar with regulations, especially tourists from abroad.
Under the civil aeronautics law, a drone of 200 grams or more cannot be operated in airspace around airports or residential areas without permission from the government. In addition, the law regulating the use of drones bans flights in airspace near designated important places such as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Imperial Palace and nuclear power plants.
Foreign tourists and others unfamiliar with the laws continue to violate them. In 2019, 14 foreign nationals had their cases sent to prosecutors, as of Nov. 20. They allegedly operated the unmanned aircraft in violation of the civil aeronautics law.
The Metropolitan Police Department has put up posters at airports and train stations in English and Japanese saying that drones may not be flown without permission almost anywhere in Tokyo in principle. The MPD has also produced a video with the same message and has asked travel agencies and hotels to notify tourists of the regulations.
There are also strong concerns about the possible use of drones by terrorists. In Yemen, a drone exploded over an air force base in January 2019, resulting in deaths and injuries.
In Japan, a former Self-Defense Forces member illegally landed a drone on the roof of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2015. In May last year, when Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne, a number of unidentified flying objects were observed in airspace around the Imperial Palace.
The 2015 drone incident prompted the MPD to set up the Interceptor Drone Team, which was deployed at match venues during the 2019 Rugby World Cup and around the Imperial Place during a series of ceremonies to mark the emperor’s enthronement. The IDT was also dispatched to Nagasaki Prefecture when Pope Francis visited in November.
The IDT is equipped with cutting-edge devices to carry out such tasks as detecting dubious drones, jamming systems to make them inoperable and launching nets to capture them, according to people familiar with the team.
In addition, private companies selling drones or offering lessons on how to operate them have been asked by the police to report visits by suspicious characters.
Isao Itabashi, head of the Center for Analysis and Studies at the Council for Public Policy, a Tokyo-based foundation specializing in risk management, stresses the need for greater efforts to familiarize foreign visitors with drone-related regulations.
With regard to measures against the use of drones for terrorism, Itabashi said, “Citizens should be more conscious of security and be active to make reports if needed because detecting dubious drones promptly is vital.”
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