TOKYO — Japan Post Co. conducted a package delivery test using a drone flying over manned areas with no ground monitors for the first time in the country on March 24 in the suburban Tokyo town of Okutama.
This was the first “Level 4” flight in Japan, in which a drone automatically flies over manned areas without an operator watching over the device, marking the beginning of the “drone home delivery era.”
In the demonstration, the latest drone manufactured by Tokyo-based ACSL Ltd. was used. It delivered sundries from Okutama Post Office in the center of the town, where a train station and other facilities are located, to the yard of a residence in the mountains. The flight distance was 4.5 kilometers round trip and took nine minutes. Wataru Komine, 64, who received the package, said, “It’s good because humans don’t need to strain themselves to carry (packages). It is especially helpful in winter.”
Part of the test flight was canceled due to rain that day. While the test was conducted on only one day, Japan Post aims to put drone delivery into practical use in the future, and hopes to improve delivery efficiency in depopulated areas such as mountainous regions. Shinya Koike, senior executive officer of the company, said, “We’ve come to the stage immediately prior to practical application. We hope to make the drone flights available for practical use in fiscal 2023 or later.”
Level 4, the most difficult level of drone flight, became possible in December 2022 with Japan’s revised Civil Aeronautics Act coming into effect. At Level 3, drones were allowed to fly over unmanned areas such as maritime and mountainous areas without a pilot in sight, but Level 4 allows them to fly in manned areas such as residential zones. A pilot’s license and aircraft certification, newly established under the revised law, are required for the operator, and this time the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism granted permission.
When Japan Post conducted a Level 3 delivery experiment at the same location in 2020, the aircraft flew over mountainous areas, and when crossing over roads, guides on the ground were required to check for cars and pedestrians. In the latest test, the drone was able to fly over residential areas, reducing the flight distance by 22% and the flight time by 40%, and without personnel to monitor ground safety.
Source : Mainichi