No Drunk Drone Driving, Warns Japan

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Prison sentence on the cards for people who fly drones whilst drunk, after Japan passes new law

The global clampdown on the use of drones continues with the news that Japan has passed tougher laws governing their use.

The new law means it is now illegal to fly a drone whilst drunk, and if discovered, the culprit could liable to a year in prison.

It comes after the European Union this week released a new set of rules that have been “published to ensure drone operations across Europe are safe and secure.”

Drunken drones

The Japanese law was passed by the Japanese parliament this week, the BBC reported in response to growing use of the devices.

In December 2015, Japanese police got their very own drone takedown squad after a drone landed on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office earlier that year.

That drone was found to be carrying a small amount of radioactive material, and although no one was hurt, a man was later arrested over the matter.

The Japanese police drone squad were equipped with a specialised drone that can intercept nuisance drones using a net to disable the target drone.

And now the Japanese parliament has passed a law that those flying a drone whilst drunk could also also face a fine of up to 300,000 yen (£2,200).

“We believe operating drones after consuming alcohol is as serious as (drink) driving,” a Japanese transport ministry official was quoted by the BBC as telling the AFP news agency.

Pilots who also perform stunts close to people with their drones could also face fines of up to 500,000 yen.

There is also new restrictions on where drones can be flown in Japan.

For example, drones are now reportedly banned from being flown within 300m (985ft) of Japan’s armed forces, US military personnel and “defence-related facilities” without prior permission.

Drones are already banned in Japan from approaching nuclear power plants, Japan’s parliament buildings and the prime minister’s office. Stadiums and other sites for the 2020 Olympics are also off-limits to drone pilots, the BBC reported.

Drone clampdown

The new rules comes after various countries including the UK, began tightening local laws after a number of serious incidents surrounding the unmanned aircraft.

Days before Christmas, Gatwick took the unprecedented decision to close its single runway after drones were spotted. Every time attempts were made to re-open the runaway, the drone appeared once again.

Despite an extensive police search and the use of military systems, as well as £50,000 reward, the unidentified drone operators were not caught. A couple were arrested, but were released without charge.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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