Sloshed drone pilots in Japan can now be punished with jail time

Drone enthusiasts in Japan have been warned that if they fly their drones while drunk, they could end up in prison.

The country has apparently become the first in the world to enact legislation that bans drunk droning, with offenders facing up to a year in the clink or a fine of up to 300,000 yen (about $2,800), the BBC reports.

Similar legislation came into force in New Jersey in 2018 when state officials made it a criminal offense to fly a drone under the influence of drink or drugs.

Japan’s new law, which came into force this week, targets drones weighing more than 0.5 pounds. That’s pretty much every popular model on the market, including DJI’s Mavic and Spark machines.

Commenting on the stricter measures, a transport ministry official told the AFP news agency: ”We believe operating drones after consuming alcohol is as serious as drunk driving.”

The law also extends to drone pilots — sloshed or not — who are caught performing maneuvers considered reckless, such as sudden and rapid descents toward a crowd of people. Such behavior could land the pilot with a fine of up to 500,000 yen (about $4,600).

And that’s not all. Joining an earlier ban on flights close to airports, nuclear power plants, and government buildings, drones have also been banned from flying within 300 meters of Japanese and U.S. military facilities, the BBC said in its report.

The new law also takes into consideration the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics by prohibiting any drone activity close to where the sports events are being held.

The Japanese authorities, like most countries around the world, are continuing to play catch-up with a technology that has enjoyed rapid growth in popularity among consumers in recent years.

In 2015, at around the time when drones were first becoming popular in Japan, a protester was arrested for using a drone to put radioactive material onto the roof of the prime minister’s office building. In the same year, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department unveiled a surprisingly low-tech system for tackling rogue flying machines — essentially a drone carrying a large net. It’s not clear if the department is still using the contraption, or if it has since moved on to a more advanced system.

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