Revision passed banning drones in the airspace above bases

Revision passed banning drones in the airspace above bases

The newly constructed K8 seawall continues construction with a pollution prevention frame. Camp Schwab coastal area, Nago City Henoko (photograph captured by drone)


March 6, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo


Tokyo – The Japanese government passed a revision to a drone regulation law by executive order March 5, creating a no-fly zone for small-bodied drones in the airspace above Japanese Self Defense Force and U.S. military bases.


The justification given was to target the drones use for terrorism, however since it greatly restricts the use of drones for information gathering by new organizations, the Japanese Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (NSK) and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters (NAB) have indicated their concerns that the media may be the real target of the revision.


It is also possible that this will restrict the news coverage of bases within Okinawa.


Junzo Yamamoto, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, said at a press conference, “This is by no means meant to restrict the information gathering of news organizations,” and explained that, “each government agency would apply the revision suitably.”


Meanwhile, the NSK has indicated, “We fear that this will greatly restrict news coverage of the U.S. military, which is not governed by Japanese law, and will make it impossible for us to fact check statements made by them.” The Cabinet Secretariat explained that news drones would be allowed to fly with permission, however the NSK made their concerns known, stating, “This assumption is not part of the written rule, and we fear that it allows public institutions to deny flight access for no reason.”


The current law bans flights over places such as the office of the Prime Minister and nuclear power plants, and additional locations added in the revision include the Rugby World Cup Japan, The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and the JSDF and U.S. military installations.


The no-fly zone includes not only the military installations themselves, but also a 300 meter perimeter around the bases, and requires obtaining permission from the commander of the facility.


Penalties for breaking this law include up to a year in prison and a 500,000 yen fine. In addition to the police and coast guard, JSDF security officials on JSDF bases are exempt.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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