Japanese police plan to battle drones with even bigger drones, equipped with nets

While many American drone operators are still unclear about the precise rules and regulations for the operation of unmanned flying machines, the authorities in Japan on Thursday introduced strict nationwide laws that will come as a big disappointment to many drone hobbyists in the country.

The new set of rules are designed to improve safety as the remotely controlled machines grow rapidly in popularity. It means unmanned aircraft weighing more than 200 grams can no longer be flown in designated built-up areas, a law that overnight brings an end to all drone flights over Tokyo’s 23 wards, the Japan Times reported.

Changes to the country’s Civil Aeronautics Law also bans flights close to airports and at large gatherings like festivals or sports events. Meanwhile, flights in unrestricted areas across the country are required to stay below 150 meters (492 feet), and also be kept at least 30 meters (98 feet) from people, buildings, and vehicles.

Cops with nets

Sources told the Japan Times that Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department is even intending to set up a special anti-drone unit for identifying and taking down suspicious-looking UAVs spotted in the capital. The report said the unit would use “a large drone” with a net to capture UAVs caught flying in areas like airports, a comically crude solution for a country brimming with tech know-how. If the story is indeed true, many will wonder why the authorities aren’t going for a high-tech solution like this, or this, instead.

Drone operators can apply for permission to fly in restricted areas, with regulators examining each application on a case-by-case basis. Rule breakers could be fined up to 500,000 yen ($4,100).

Masahiro Kobayashi, an Osaka-based lawyer with experience in drone-related cases, told the Japan Times that while some of the new laws are acceptable, restricting the use of toy devices as light as 200 grams was unfair, as is the move to stop people flying their machines in pretty much all urban locations.

Kobayashi suggested  the rules would deter youngsters from experimenting with the technology, which in the long-term could damage the expansion of drone-related industries. One solution, he said, would be to set up special zones in cities where anyone could fly their machines without restrictions.

The government woke up to the growing popularity of UAVs – and their myriad of possible uses – in April when a political protester from western Japan used a DJI Phantom to transport a batch of radioactive sand onto the roof of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.

Before then, Japan had few regulations governing use of the machines, which, as in the U.S. and other countries, have become hugely popular over the last 12 months.

Further drone-related incidents over the summer motivated lawmakers to push ahead with new laws. In May, for example, a drone operated by a 15-year-old boy crashed on a festival parade in Nagano, while in September a 49-year-old man admitted to crashing a remotely controlled copter into Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site 60 miles west of Kyoto. Another UAV burst into flames while filming a cycle race, though that one belonged to the event’s organizers. No one was injured in the incident.

As in the U.S., the Japanese authorities are continuing to examine ways to regulate the commercial use of drones. Recommendations are expected to be announced in the summer.

Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s main Falcon Heavy booster is lost at sea after falling off drone ship

SpaceX has lost the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket after a successful mission last week that ended with it landing on a drone ship. SpaceX said rough seas resulted in the rocket toppling over and falling into the ocean.
Emerging Tech

Watch the fearsome DroneHunter X3 pluck rogue UAVs out of the sky

How do you stop enemy drones in their tracks? DroneHunter X3 is a new autonomous anti-drone technology which outruns and then captures rogue drones in midair. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Emerging Tech

NASA chooses a special spot for its next crewed moon landing

Following the U.S. government's announcement last month of a desire to see American astronauts set foot on the moon again in the next five years, NASA has revealed a location on the lunar surface where it would most like to land.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.
Emerging Tech

Yale scientists restore cellular activity in a pig’s brain hours after its death

In what some may view as a porcine version of Frankenstein, Yale University scientists have restored circulation and cellular activity in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. The study is likely to be used to study brain function
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.