Japan considers extending beyond visual line of sight operations to populated and urban areas

The Japanese government is expected to lift its ban on Level 4 drone flights, perhaps as soon as April of this year, according to a report by UAS Vision. Currently, some beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone flights can be permitted in less populated areas such as the remote islands and mountainous areas of Japan.

The report says: “The lifting of the Level 4 ban will also open up the possibility of BVLOS flights in populated and urban areas”. It quotes Asa Quesenberry, founder of Sakai, Osaka, based drone and eVTOL firm DroNext: “BVLOS is the biggest obstacle to overcome when wanting to establish commercialized logistics with drones,” adding “This whole decision in my mind speaks volumes about how serious the Japanese government is about being involved and being a leader in the advanced air mobility space, whether it be drones or eVTOLs.”

Quesenberry cautions, however, that even the lifting of the Level 4 ban next year will not immediately lead to a swarm of drones hovering over Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, says the report. According to UAS Vision: “There will first need to be steady advances in Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) involving the need to identify the necessary services, responsibilities, information architecture, data exchange protocols, software functions, infrastructure, and performance requirements for enabling the management of low-altitude drone operations.

“However, the new licensing system and the lifting of the Level 4 ban may be creating the conditions for Japan to accelerate its testing stage and potentially move more quickly than many other nations toward drone-based logistics systems in urban settings.”

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