Japan’s Drone Delivery
The Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Civil Aviation Bureau has decided to permit a trial of a UAS home delivery service in the City of Chiba, supposedly the first of its kind in an urban area.
The proposed trial will involve ferrying of merchandise, including bottles of wine and milk cartons from warehouses/stores to several points in the city. The destinations include parks, commercial facilities and even on the roof of a residential building without any damage to the packages.
Oddly, in this area the JCAB’s restrictions against the use of drones do not apply. [The article states that “the current Civil Aeronautics Law bans drones from flying over crowded residential areas or around airports without government permission.” Very odd.]
Chiba is located sits about 25 mi. southeast of the center of Tokyo on Tokyo Bay. Its population is 972,861, with a population density of 3,580 people per roughly every 1/3 square mile. That is not the sort of test case with which the FAA would use to assess the safety of a drone delivery system.
The next stage of the JCAB test will transport packages from Tokyo Bay to Chiba, about 6 miles. The purpose of this live laboratory test is to develop technology to ensure stable flight during rain and strong winds, and to set up a traffic control system for drones. Then it is contemplated that drones will be used to deliver medicines to isolated areas by 2018.
Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, tech firm NEC and Aeon supermarket chain, among other companies, expect that UAS will be able to deliver their products by 2020 when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games.
For a variety of good reasons, the FAA has not opted to use the citizens of any heavily populated areas for live UAS experiments, much to the dismay of Amazon and others in the distribution and other drone prone businesses. That said, the FAA should ask to see the results of the Chiba test and perhaps even send a technical representative to get a first-hand perspective. It is highly likely one of Mr. Bezos’ Prime Air Team will be there.
This is another instance in which the FAA would benefit from learn from other countries; transnational studies may be a beneficial option.