The Japanese government plans to tighten regulations on how close drones may fly to people after a candy-dropping drone crashed at a November event in Gifu.
Japanese news source Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the drone crash injured 3 people. The approximately 3-foot tall drone was dropping candy on bystanders at an outdoor event when it lost balance and crashed into the crowd.
In response, Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has decided to “strengthen safety standards for flying drones in areas where people gather,” says the news source.
Regulations already prohibit flight directly over people but the new rules, which may be enacted this month, specify that drones maintain a specific distance from spectators. The distance will vary depending upon flight altitude, size of the event, and other factors.
Before the new rules are enacted, the Ministry is asking drone operators flying at events to take protective measures such as using tethers or nets to safeguard crowds.
The drone business operating the aircraft in the Gifu incident has had its license revoked – the first such action taken in Japan. Regulators say that the action was taken after they discovered that the drone flying at the event was not the same drone that had been previously registered for the business and identified other irregularities.
Japan already has strict regulations for the use of recreational drones in crowded areas. Operators must prove flight experience and adherence to safety standards before receiving permits to fly. While regulations are strict for recreational use, Japan has made major efforts to support the commercial drone industry. De-regulations zones that allow for drone testing and other facilities have been put in place to encourage what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refers to as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.