Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) is harnessing the power of drones to manage heavy rain disasters. They recently conducted a successful drone test flight that lasted over three hours to understand better areas at risk of sediment-related incidents and river overflow.
The day was filled with anticipation as the drone, capable of an 11-hour flight through a gasoline-powered generator, completed its three-hour mission. Hisanobu Sato, an MLIT technical adviser, said, “Previously, we had to transport drones close to the disaster site. But we can fly this drone directly to the disaster site.”
On May 21, in Sakura Ward, Saitama City, MLIT carried out a successful trial, marking the first time a drone maintained a continuous flight for over three hours.
These drones, equipped with laser sensors, flew at Level 3, signifying autonomous flight beyond the visual range of operators. The sensor data formed three-dimensional topographical images of rivers and surfaces, which is crucial for immediate disaster response.
Koichi Sakai, from Tokyo's leading surveying company, PASCO Corporation, emphasized the role of drones in detecting disaster indicators. Drones can conduct detailed surveys at low altitudes, identifying anomalies that may lead to disasters.
On May 21, in Sakura Ward, Saitama City, a drone emitted lasers to collect 3D data of rivers and surface topography.
December 2022 saw Japan allow Level 4 flights for autonomous operations in obstructed urban areas. Moreover, the government plans to convert airspace above rivers into “sky highways” for drone usage. These advances open opportunities for long-flight drones to transport critical supplies from urban areas to less populated regions.
However, challenges remain, including ensuring flight safety in adverse weather and determining the feasibility of larger drones. Drone expert Kenzo Nonami reportedly believes hybrid engine-powered drones will become the industry standard but insists on exploring silent battery-powered drones for urban areas. Despite these challenges, Japan's successful drone test heralds a promising future for disaster management.
Photos courtesy of Sankei by Naoki Otake
Get your Part 107 Certificate
Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.
FTC: DroneXL.co uses affiliate links that generate income.* We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.