The government and companies started a trial of a drone home delivery service in Chiba Prefecture on Monday, with drones loaded with packages flying between condominiums, commercial facilities and adjacent parks.
The joint project involving the central government, the city of Chiba, research institutions and companies including e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. is the first drone delivery trial in an urban area. The city of Chiba has been designated as a special deregulation zone to conduct the trial.
In the next stage of the trial, drones will pick up packages from a warehouse located beside Tokyo Bay and deliver them to Chiba’s Mihama Ward, about 10 km away.
The city aims to start the drone home delivery service by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and plans to ask real estate developers scheduled to construct high-rise condominiums in Mihama to set up landing areas for the craft on each unit’s balcony.
Based on the trial, the project participants will aim to develop technology to ensure stable flight in rain and strong winds, and set up a traffic control system for drones.
A similar test of a drone home delivery service was conducted in the town of Naka in Tokushima Prefecture in February as a way to facilitate shopping for people who live in a depopulated area.
The test began amid growing concern in Japan that drones could be used for terrorism or unlawful video recording.
Last December, Japan introduced regulations under the revised Civil Aeronautics Law to ban drones from flying over crowded residential areas or around airports without government permission.
The law was amended after a small drone with a minuscule amount of radiation was found in April 2015 on the roof of the prime minister’s office building in central Tokyo.