By Shun Niekawa and Takehiro Tomoda
The revised Civil Aeronautics Law was approved by the Cabinet on March 9. Amid an increase in drone use, the revised law will newly establish a licensing system for the operation of drones. People 16 years of age or older may apply for a license, which is to be renewed every three years. The Japanese government will aim for the law to be passed during the current Diet session.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), two licenses will be established under the revised law. A first class license will allow the operation of drones in the presence of other people on the ground, and a second class license will allow operation in all other areas. License applicants must pass a written and a practical exam at government-designated institutions. Those who take a course in drone operation may be exempt from a portion of the exam.
A system for certifying the safety of the drone itself will also be newly established. There will be two types of certification, one for when there is a third party in the skies and a higher degree of safety is necessary, and a second type for all other areas.
At the moment, a Level 4 flight, where the drone is out of the operator’s sight while there are people on the ground, is not permitted. Under the new law, the government plans to allow an operator with a first class license and a type 1-certified drone to undertake Level 4 flight.
The revised law will mandate reporting of drone accidents. The law that established the Transportation Safety Board will be revised so that some serious accidents will be subject to investigation.
Under this revision, security checks at airports will be mandated for passengers, with penalties for non-compliance. The revision also states a framework to assist airlines and airport authorities when there is a rapid decrease in air travel, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.