Once a hobby for tech lovers, it now seems that the drone industry is set to take off. Industrialised countries such as China, the USA and Japan are rapidly employing this technology for surveying, inspection, crop spraying, photography and the delivery of goods to remote areas.
Drone technology is already taking off
In the future, drone technology is expected to play a major role in monitoring, aerial operations and logistics. Already the technology is used in crop spraying by small-scale farmers in Japan where serious labour shortages have forced innovation. In ten minutes, a drone can spray an area that would take a man with a backpack a day to complete. Drones can spray pesticides or fertilizer and take pictures of the fields at the same time so that the farmer can monitor crop growth rates.
Moreover, authorities in Japan are already using drones to investigate and mitigate disasters in places where humans cannot go. Recently a drone was used to pinpoint the area of a fire in the mountains of Minamisoma when poor visibility made it impossible to send a helicopter into the region.
Insurance companies are also using the technology to survey disaster areas to determine levels of damage for the purposes of assessment.
Drones have become indispensable in the construction industry where they are used to make accurate maps, to keep check of material stocks and to control the robots used in construction.
This could make Tokyo the first megacity in the world to allow drones to take to the skies for the purpose of drone delivery.
Will Tokyo be the first Megacity to allow drone delivery?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Is committed to drone technology and has spoken of the need to allow drones to fly the skies of Tokyo in time for the 2020 Olympics. This could make Tokyo the first megacity in the world to allow drones to take to the skies for the purpose of drone delivery.
Drone delivery is already a reality in the rural areas of Japan where e-Commerce giant Rakuten and Lawson’s convenience stores are partnering to deliver food to Fukushima’s Minamisoma City, an area devastated by the nuclear disaster that took place there several years ago.
Japanese Drone Legislation
This year the Japanese government is revising the regulations to speed up the commercial use of drones. With improvements in the safety features of drones, the government is considering allowing them to fly outside of the operator’s line of sight.
The laws covering drones in Japan are fairly new and were cobbled together in response to a drone that was flown onto the roof of President Abe’s office in 2015. It contained contaminated nuclear sand from the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It was sent in protest against the government’s nuclear policies.
The laws governing the use of drones in Japan are easy to understand. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle UAV or drone is classified as a vehicle of over 200 grams that is too small to carry a person. Japan’s Aviation Act makes it illegal to fly a drone more than 150 metres high. They are not allowed in densely populated areas. You may not fly them at night, near airports or over railway lines or electricity lines. Drones are not allowed where public events are taking place.
Municipal and prefecture laws also govern the areas where the drones may or may not take to the air. It is a good idea to obtain a map of the areas where drones are allowed as the fines for flying drones in non-designated areas are enormous.
No licence is required to fly a drone in Japan but you will require prior permission.
Drones are here to stay
Drones are cheaper and easier to operate than helicopters or small planes. The can get into areas where lack of visibility makes it impossible for other aerial transport to operate. They are indispensable when it comes to deliveries into areas with little infrastructure and they are able to survey and assess inaccessible and dangerous areas.
One thing is certain, drones are set to change the way that businesses around the world operate, opening new horizons and offering them new opportunities.