japan drone deliveryJapan is moving one step closer to drone delivery, with a new change in the law requiring a visual observer for drone flights.

“A law requiring that a safety assistant be present during long-distance commercial drone operations will be scrapped, according to new rules announced Thursday by the transport and industry ministries,” says the Japan Times.

Japan is one of few countries active in the drone industry that does not currently allow flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS.)  In 2015, however, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged deregulation of drones in 3 years.  Abe has frequently referred to the drone industry as part of “the fourth industrial revolution,” as has said that Japan will not be left behind.

The change will be implemented by the end of the year, say authorities.  The change says that “a safety assistant will no longer be required to keep the aircraft in view if flight safety can be fully ensured remotely through devices such as cameras and sensors,” says the Japan Times.

The new rules indicate that authorities will only grant permissions for BVLOS flight without an assistant as long as the operator has a safety record and the drone flies below 150 meters.

Japan has been moving towards drone delivery for remote and rural areas – and this change will remove one of the remaining regulatory barriers.   In an article earlier this month, the Japan Times quoted Shinji Suzuki, president of the Japan UAS Industrial Development Association (JUIDA), as saying: “To start drone delivery, the change in this rule is a must.”

Aviation authorities in Japan have already approved tests of drone delivery in remote areas, and hopes to add drone delivery to postal services to enhance efficiencies.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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