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SECURITY > Okinawa

U.S. Navy bans drone flights around its facilities

  • May 25, 2019
  • , Ryukyu Shimpo , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

The U.S. Navy in Okinawa will not in principle give consent for small drones to be flown in areas around its facilities. On May 24 it responded to an inquiry from Ryukyu Shimpo by saying, “Drone flights may pose a threat to Navy facilities and residents in the area.” The government enacted amended legislation on May 17 to regulate drone flights. The new law bans drone flights in areas and facilities provided to the U.S. military unless the base commander gives consent for shooting photos or video. In addition to the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army have already replied to Ryukyu Shimpo’s inquiry by saying they will not in principle give consent for drone flights for safety reasons. This response appears to disregard the Japanese government’s request to “take freedom of the press into consideration.”


In Okinawa Prefecture, the U.S. Navy administers the White Beach area (Uruma City), Camp Shields (Okinawa City), and the Awase Transmitter Facility (Okinawa City). Unless it takes into account freedom of the press, drone flights will be banned around these facilities. Even if an accident takes place, the ban may make it difficult for media outlets to gather information on the situation.


Article 3 of the Status of Forces Agreement states that within U.S. military facilities and areas, the United States may take all the measures necessary for their establishment, operation, safeguarding, and control. Citing this article in its reply, the U.S. Navy said, “Small drones owned by individuals are banned from being flown in the U.S. military facilities and areas.” It further explained, “Drone flights may pose a threat to the safety of military operations and endanger military aircraft, troops and their families, and local citizens.”


Flying a drone in banned area requires permission from a facility administrator such as the base commander 48 hours prior to the flight. When the Japanese government asked the U.S. military to take freedom of the press into consideration, the U.S. side replied by saying, “We understand the point.” according to the government. However, the U.S. Navy said, “We have authority to take the necessary measures to protect the safety of facilities, areas, and operations,” without referring to freedom of the press. In response to a question on whether the U.S. Navy uses anti-drone systems such as jamming signals, it replied, “We have no intention to discuss specific defense measures as they are related to operational security and safety.”

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