Japan eases flight rules to boost residential drone delivery

Zipline drone delivery japan

Japan is relaxing its drone regulations from today to allow automated, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights over residential areas. The idea is to boost drone delivery services since the logistics industry is facing a serious shortage of drivers.

With the population aging across the country, the Japanese government has liberalized several laws to pave the way for increasingly advanced autonomous vehicles. In the case of drones, operators meeting certain requirements are now being allowed to conduct unattended “level 4” drone flights over urban areas for parcel deliveries.

This classification of different “levels” of drone flights has been operational in Japan since mid-2021. Level 1 is typically manual, and it requires operators to keep the drone within their visual range at all times. Level 2 is for automated commercial operations such as surveying or asset inspections, but, here also, the aircraft is required to stay within the visual line of sight of the pilot. Level 3 allows for automated BVLOS drone flights, but only over uninhabited areas. And Level 4 is reserved for automated BVLOS flights over residential and urban areas.

Read: Japanese firm gets BVLOS approval to fly autonomous drones at night

But while the ban on level 4 drone operations has been lifted, Nikkei Asia points out that the Japanese government will not rush to issue flight permits over densely populated areas. Several measures have been put in place to ensure safe flights over houses, including a new licensing system and airworthiness tests for drones.

“Their flight schedules and courses must be submitted to the government, and operators must create internal guidelines on how to deal with operational risks and report accidents. Serious accidents will be investigated by the Japan Transport Safety Board,” says Kyodo News.

Even then, remote islands and sparsely populated areas of Japan could see drones delivering food, daily necessities, and medicines as soon as next spring.

Read: German drone delivery firm Wingcopter deepens roots in Japan with new investor ITOCHU

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