Japan prefectures curbing drones

Police and security officers investigate an unidentified drone (under a blue cover) which was found on the rooftop of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 22, 2015.

About half of the nation's 47 prefectural and 20 ordinance-designated city governments have prohibited or are considering a ban on drone flights in locations that attract large numbers of people, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

In the wake of a small drone that was found on the roof of the Prime Minister's Office, 32 local governments have taken or are considering measures in parks, tourist spots, prefectural government premises and other locations that draw large crowds.

The finding highlights local government efforts to address concerns of possible drone-related incidents and accidents by using existing local ordinances.

Of the prefectural and major city governments polled, 17 prefectural governments including the Tokyo metropolitan government and five municipal governments said they have already introduced drone regulations. Five prefectural and five city governments are deciding whether to follow suit.

Most of the local governments that have introduced regulations prohibit flying drones using existing local ordinances on parks or building management regulations.

These local governments treat drones, which could fall to the ground, as equivalent to launching fireworks or playing catch with a hard ball.

The governments of Tokyo and the city of Nagoya prohibit drone flights based on clauses in their ordinances that ban "acts that can obstruct the management of parks."

The Sapporo municipal and the Fukuoka prefectural governments use ordinances that stipulate a ban on "acts that disturb other people."

The Tottori prefectural government revised its local ordinance in March to "protect the Tottori Sand Dunes as the nation's largest sand dune area." The ordinance was revised to prohibit the operation of remote-control helicopters and other flying objects to protect the natural environment of the dunes as well as visiting tourists. Prompted by the drone incident at the Prime Minister's Office, the prefectural government has also decided to seek a ban on drones.

Following completion of large-scale repair work at Himeji Castle in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, there has been a spike in drones being used to shoot footage. The Himeji city government regards flying drones over the castle as "acts that obstruct the preservation of the castle" based on a city ordinance to manage the castle, and has called for restraint on drone flights.

Among the eight cities bidding to host a Group of Seven summit meeting in 2016, the municipal governments of Shima, Mie Prefecture, and Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, are considering drone flight regulations if either of them are chosen to host the event. The local governments concerned are considering ordinances for a set period to regulate drone flights over and near the summit venue.

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