Japan Further Restricts Drone Flights

Japan’s government moved to enact new legislation to restrict the operation of civilian drones over Japanese Self Defense and US military sites as well as over venues for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2019 Rugby World Cup. Further restrictions reinforce ban the use of drones over or near airports.

According to the Japan Times, an English-language newspaper based in Tokyo, only drones providing coverage for and controlled by authorized media outlets will be allowed to operate over sports events. The Japanese government amended the existing law due to fears of terrorism, citing examples of drone attacks carried out in Venezuela, Syria, Yemen and most recently in Saudi Arabia.

This is not the first time that Japan has tightened its civil aviation laws in response to fears over drone-based attacks.

Japan first amended its Aviation Act and passed a new law in response to an incident in 2015. Yasuo Yamamoto, a 40-year-old environmental activist who was deeply opposed to the use of nuclear energy in Japan, flew a drone loaded with a small amount of radioactive sand over the Prime Minister’s office. The device landed on the roof and was not spotted by an employee until two weeks later, prompting the evacuation of the building.

Since then Japanese authorities have recorded a spike in illegal drone activity – often linked back to foreign tourists who are unaware of the rules.

Following the Yamamoto incident, Japan passed an amendment prohibiting drones, among other places in:

  • Areas where air traffic is expected, such as airports or military bases
  • In designated “Densely Inhabited Districts” (DIDs) or above gatherings of people
  • At a distance of closer than 30 meters (98ft) to people or objects or more than 150 meters (492ft) above ground level

Night time and beyond line of sight flights were also banned.

In 2016, further legislation specifically forbids UAV flights over “important facilities” including government buildings, embassies, and nuclear power facilities.

Tokyo has recently been rattled by a rash of drone sightings in restricted areas including two drone intrusions over the Imperial Palace, residence of the Emperor of Japan, and another sighting over the famous Shibuya street crossing.

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