Japan’s pilot project in Wakkanai City, Hokkaido prefecture to test Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) services was completed successfully according to a press release by NEC. Several leading Japanese technology firms, including Bird Initiative, ANA Holdings, AIN Holdings, and NEC Corporation, partnered with the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to conduct a number of drone operations. Tests conducted examined the ability of drones to deliver pharmaceutical supplies to remote areas in accordance with Japan’s Guidelines for Pharmaceutical Supply Delivery using Drones, and to operate at passenger airports using UTM. UTM enables multiple drone operators to operate drones safely and efficiently within the same airspace. All of the tests were held in accordance with existing Japanese regulations and guidelines for drone use.
These successful pilots were conducted as part of the Drones and Robots for Ecologically Sustainable Societies project (DRESS) project entrusted to Persol Process & Technology by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). With Bird Initiative acting as the representative, Hokkaido Drone Association, FRS, HELICAM, the National Institute of Informatics of the Research Organization of Information and Systems (NII), and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance together conducted the experiment from September 7 to October 30, 2021.
Drones offer exciting new possibilities, but their full potential is limited by restrictions on their ability to fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of their operators. BVLOS operations are currently limited to remote islands, mountainous areas, and sparsely populated areas. The DRESS project was launched in 2017 in an effort to gain approval for BVLOS flights in populated areas, also known as Level 4 flights, by FY2022. The results from the Wakkanai tests could help achieve this goal. The tests in Wakkanai each held different purposes aimed to resolve challenges that still affect drone operation – implementing new ideas to solve regional issues (seal monitoring), establishing guidelines (combatting fisheries poaching), addressing practical issues for already legalized operations (takeoff and landing at passenger airports), and improving guidelines (delivery of pharmaceutical supplies).
Details of the individual projects can be found here.
Additional background available here.
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