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Summary

 

Japan recently amended its Aviation Act and passed a new law to regulate the flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). UAVs are prohibited from flying near airports and over densely populated areas and important facilities.

I. Overview

Legislation to regulate drones was recently proposed in Japan after an April 2015 incident in which a small drone was discovered on the roof of the Japanese Prime Minister’s office building in Tokyo. [1] At that time, there was no regulation in place to prohibit the flying of such devices. The drone operator was indicted and received a suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment for the criminal act of forcible obstruction of business. [2]

Following this incident, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) submitted a bill to the Diet (Japan’s Parliament) in June 2015 to regulate flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over certain areas. [3] The second bill, which amended the Aviation Act, [4] was submitted by the Cabinet in July 2015.[5] The Diet passed both of these bills, whose provisions are discussed below.

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II. Aviation Act

The Aviation Act amendment was the first of the two bills to be enacted. The amendment was promulgated on September 11, 2015, [6] and became effective on December 10, 2015.[7] Under the amendment, a UAV operator is prohibited from flying a UAV, absent permission from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation (MLIT), in the following areas:

  • Where air traffic is expected, such as airports and their approach areas, and areas above 150 meters

  • Densely populated residential areas [8]

The amendment also sets the conditions for UAV flights:

  • UAV flights may be made only between dawn and dusk.

  • An operator must monitor the UAV and its surroundings with his/her own eyes at all times.

  • In-flight UAVs must keep more than 30 meters’ distance from people and objects.

  • UAVs must not fly over a place where an event attended by many people is being held.

  • UAVs must not carry specified dangerous items, such as explosives and flammable objects.

  • UAVs must not drop items while in flight. [9]

These conditions may not apply in emergency situations or when an operator obtains prior approval from the MLIT. [10] A UAV that weighs 200 grams (7 ounces) or less is not subject to the rules in the Aviation Act. [11]

The MLIT has requested that UAV operators report accidents, collisions, UAV falls, and near-miss incidents. [12] Eleven cases were reported between the enforcement date of the amendment to the Aviation Act and March 30, 2016. [13] Additional cases were reported to the police instead of the MLIT. [14]

Flying a UAV over a prohibited area or violating the conditions of flight is punishable by a fine of up to 500,000 yen (approximately US$4,000). [15]

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III. Act on Prohibition of Flying UAVs over Important Facilities

The Act on Prohibition of Flying UAVs over Important Facilities and Their Peripheries was promulgated on March 18, 2016, [16] and becomes effective three months from the date of promulgation. [17] The Act prohibits flying UAVs over designated facilities, such as the Diet building, the Prime Minister’s office building, buildings of designated government agencies that are involved in crisis management, the Supreme Court building, the Imperial Palace, embassies, and nuclear facilities. [18] These no-fly areas generally extend to within a 300-meter radius of such designated facilities. [19] Flying a UAV over a designated area is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen. [20]

When a police officer finds a person flying a UAV over a designated area, the police officer can order the person to stop the operation of the UAV. [21] If the person does not follow the order, the police officer can take necessary measures, such as obstructing the flight of and destroying the UAV in order to remove any danger it poses.[22] In addition, the person who did not follow the officer’s order is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen. [23]

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Prepared by Sayuri Umeda
Foreign Law Specialist
April 2016


[1] UPDATE: Radiation Detected on Drone Found on Roof of Prime Minister’s Office , Asahi Shimbun (Apr. 22, 2015) (on file with author).

[2] Shusuke Murai, Man Who Landed Drone on Roof of Japanese Prime Minister’s Office Gets Suspended Sentence, Japan Times (Feb. 16, 2016), http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/02/16/national/crime-legal/man-landed-drone-roof-japanese-prime-ministers-office-gets-suspended-sentence , archived at https://perma.cc/A3VV-KCXH ; Penal Code, Act No. 45 of 1907, as amended, art. 234, English translation of the Act as amended by Act No. 54 of 2007 available at http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?printID=&ft=3&re=02&dn=1&ia=03&bu= 16&_x=63&_y=28&ky=&page=9&vm=02 , archived at https://perma.cc/6G88-HVY6 .

[3] History of House of Representatives (HR) Bill No. 24 of 189th Diet Session , HR, http://www.shugiin.go.jp/internet/ itdb_gian.nsf/html/gian/keika/1DBDDC2.htm (last visited Apr. 5, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/78GZ-JE5A.See also Japan’s Lower House Passes Law Restricting Use of Drones, RT (July 9, 2015),https://www.rt.com/news/ 272731-japan-law-drones-ban, archived at https://perma.cc/58SH-73GX.

[4] Aviation Act, Act No. 231 of 1952.

[5] History of Cabinet Bill No. 75 of 189th Diet Session , HR, http://www.shugiin.go.jp/internet/itdb_gian.nsf/html/ gian/keika/1DBDE56.htm (last visited Apr. 5, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/8J3B-U5C7.

[6] I d .

[7] Order to Set Enforcement Date of Partial Amendment of Aviation Act, Order No. 371 of 2015 (Oct. 30, 2015).

[8] Aviation Act art. 132, amended by Act No. 67 of 2015; Aviation Act Enforcement Ordinance, Ministry of Transport Ordinance No. 56 of 1952, amended by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ordinance No. 79 of 2015, arts. 236 & 236-2.

[9] Aviation Act art. 132-2, inserted by Act No. 67 of 2015; Aviation Act Enforcement Ordinance art. 236-4.

[10] Aviation Act arts. 132-2 & 132-3, inserted by Act No. 67 of 2015.

[11] Id . art. 2, para. 22, inserted by Act No. 67 of 2015; Aviation Act Enforcement Ordinance art. 5-2.

[12] 無人航空機(ドローン・ラジコン機等)の飛行ルール [Flight Rules for UAVs (Drones, Radio-Controlled Air Vehicles, etc.)], 5. 無人航空機による事故等の情報提供 [5. Incidents Reported Involving UAVs], MLIT,http://www.mlit.go.jp/koku/koku_tk10_000003.html (last visited Apr. 5, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/PQR7-6HHM.

[13] 平成27年度 無人航空機に係る事故等の一覧(国土交通省に報告のあったもの)[Fiscal Year 2015, Chart of Accidents, etc. of UAVs (Cases Reported to MLIT)], MLIT,http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/00112 5882.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/TT3C-KYWV.

[14] ニアミス・落下 ドローンのトラブル続々報告 [Near Misses, Falls . . . Continual Reports of Drone Troubles], Yomiuri Online (Mar. 31, 2016),http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/20160331-OYT1T50086.html, archived at https://perma.cc/DJQ4-E3AQ.

[15] Aviation Act art. 157-4, inserted by Act No. 67 of 2015.

[16] History of HR Bill 24 of 189th Diet Session , HR, http://www.shugiin.go.jp/internet/itdb_gian.nsf/html/gian/ keika/1DBE1E2.htm (last visited Apr. 5, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/LK5U-XYM7.

[17] Act on Prohibition of Flying UAVs over Important Facilities and Their Peripheries, Act No. 9 of 2016.

[18] Id . arts. 2 & 8.

[19] Id . arts. 3–6 & 8.

[20] Id. art. 11, para. 1.

[21] Id . art. 9, para. 1.

[22] Id . art. 9, para. 2.

[23] Id . art. 11, para. 1.

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Last Updated: 07/22/2016