Japan’s new UAS rules become effective today.  Similar to those in many other countries, including the U.S., operators of UAS exceeding a weight threshold must operate during daytime and within visual line of sight (VLOS), maintain distance between persons and properties, not operate over densely populated or congested areas, and not transport hazardous materials or drop objects.  Operations in certain airspace (e.g., around airports and above certain altitudes) and above densely populated areas will also require permission from the Japanese authorities.

On September 11, 2015, an amendment to the Aeronautical Act introduced operational safety rules for UAS.  The rules will apply to any unmanned aircraft that can be remotely or automatically piloted and exceeds 200 grams (approximately 0.44 lbs.).  Before operating in airspace around airports, above 150 meters above ground level (AGL) (approximately 500 feet), or above densely populated areas, the operator must obtain permission from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB).  In addition, the operation must be in daytime, VLOS, maintain a 30 meter (approximately 100 feet) distance from persons and objects, and cannot carry hazardous materials or drop objects.  Certain requirements will not apply to flights for search and rescue operations by public organizations and JCAB will issue exemptions to operators that exceed the limitations but take sufficient safety measures.  Violators of the rules will be liable for a fine of up to 500,000 yen (approximately USD$4100).

Integrating UAS operations that pose the lowest risk, these rules echo those proposed in the U.S. and effective in other countries – e.g., 500 feet AGL, VLOS, and daytime.  As many countries continue to develop more detailed regulatory frameworks for UAS operations – e.g., registration, pilot competency, and property-owner consent – we expect that JCAB will follow with an equally sophisticated framework.