Visiting Japan can be a mind-bogglingly fantastic experience. There are attractions, from historical sites to modern areas such as Disneyland. It also has many exciting facets of scenery, culture, and even food.
If you plan to visit Japan and want to take some photographs, you may be wondering if you can carry your drone.
You can bring a drone to Japan when you visit. However, you must adhere to the laws governing the operation of drones in the country. For drones above 100g (0.22lb), you’ll need to register them with the ministry of lands, infrastructure, transport and tourism (MLIT). Other drones below 100 g can operate without registration.
Besides the registration law, there are other laws that you’ll need to comply with to avoid fines and imprisonment. Some rules are operational, while others are based on location. Read through to learn what’s required of you if you plan to bring your drone to Japan.
What are the requirements to fly my drone in Japan?
Tourists are legally allowed to operate a drone in Japan. You can fly your drone for commercial or hobby purposes as long as you don’t violate the rules of drone operation.
Your drone needs to have Japanese TELEC Certification. This is a technical regulations conformity certification obtained from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication.
For the conditions and the location, there are rules to follow. These rules are stipulated in the prohibition law and the amended aviation law.
To fly a drone in the area specified in the regulations, you need to notify NPA/MLIT and get permission and approval beforehand. Also, you need to obtain a wireless worker license in order to use FPV goggles.
What agencies regulate drones in Japan?
- Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau is a branch of the ministry of land, infrastructure, transport, and tourism (MLIT). JCAB manages the ministry’s security department, air navigation services, aviation network department, department, and aviation safety. Its headquarters are located in MLIT offices in Chiyoda.
- Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT): The MLIT was established on January 6, 2001. It is the second-largest ministry in Japan and has one-third of Japan’s laws and regulations under its authority. It manages external agencies, including Japan’s coast guard, meteorological agency, tourism agency, and transport safety board.
What laws should I follow when flying a drone in Japan?
JCAD allows the flying of drones in Japan under strict regulations. Some apply to all drones, while others are only for those above 100g. They include:
General rules updated on June 20, 2022
- All drones above the weight of 100g (0.22lb) must be registered. It is a shift from the previous restriction of 200g (0.44lb) takeoff weight.
- The drone should be equipped with a remote ID function. The ID function is RID equipment that broadcasts the drone’s identification to the surroundings through radio waves. Without the installation of this function, there will be a restriction on the flight method, which is only possible when flying indoors.
- The drone must be registered to DIPS-REG (drone registration system). The application should be in Japanese and directed to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Ministry. This registration should be 10 days before you start flying your drone.
- No flying under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Operate the drone after pre-flight actions (check battery level, equipment, weather, flight airspace)
- Prevent collision hazards with airplanes and other unmanned airspace vehicles
- Operate the drone during the day
- No transportation of hazardous materials such as explosives
- Do not drop anything from the drone while in flight
- Operate the drone 30m (100ft) or more away from people or properties on the water surface or ground
- Do not fly drones above event sites such as fairs and festivals where there is a large gathering of people
- Do not fly/operate a drone in a reckless manner
Drones that should comply with flight rules for unmanned aircraft
All drones above the weight of 100g (0.22lb) should comply with these rules. The weight does not include other removable accessories apart from the battery. You’ll be expected to pay a fine of 500,000 JYN (around 4,600 USD) for violating the rules.
I found that if you violate the “do not fly when drunk rule,” you’ll be charged a fine of 300,000 JYN (around 2,800 USD) or get a sentence of up to 1 year.
Prohibition of flight of UASs
Anyone intending to operate a drone in these areas should obtain permission from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Land, Tourism, and Transport.
- Airport or airspace area around 300 meters. This requirement was implemented on September 18, 2019. Areas above the airport site and the airspace below the transitional and approach surface are considered no-fly zones. The targeted airports include Tokyo International Airport, Fukuoka Airport, New Chitose Airport, Osaka International Airport, Naha Airport, Chubu Airport, Narita International Airport, and Kansai International Airport.
- The area above the prime minister’s residence, the parliament, defense facilities, nuclear power plant sites, and other crucial facilities in the county.
Specific flight-prohibited places, including maps, are provided on the official website of the National Police Agency, which has control over this law.
If your residence is within 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) of any of the forbidden aviation sites listed above, you’ll not be permitted to fly from your home.
When a significant event is hosted, or a VIP visits Japan, unofficial no-fly zones may be established in nearby areas.
How do I register my drone before I fly?
Registration is a requirement before starting to fly your drone. This can be done through the MLIT website. Even foreigners can register as it is available in both English and Japanese.
When planning to visit Japan for a vacation and get some great pictures using your drone, it’s a good idea to register online beforehand.
For authentication, you’ll have to use your passport or a driver’s license (if issued in Japan). Using other documents for registration is also possible, but these must be sent via email.
Registration also requires you to pay a small fee. You can register and pay for the drone before operating it using this link. The application ranges from 900 to 2,400 yen, depending on the authentication method. The most convenient payment method is a credit card or, in Japan, easy pay service at an ATM.
Locations where you can’t fly a drone without permission from MLIT
- The areas above the densely inhabited district (DID). These are the recognized and published areas by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication. In these densely inhabited areas, you’re not allowed to fly the drone even at your home, except indoors. Major cities like Central Tokyo are target areas.
- The use of airspace around airports is restricted. The airspace around Narita (NRT) / Kansai (KIX/ Tokyo (HND) / Chubu (NGO) /) International Airports usually is within 24 km (approximately 15 mi). other airports recognized by government regulations are within 6 km (about 3.8 mi). Airspace below the transitional surface and entry surface or above the airport area is forbidden at several airports (New Chitose Airport, Naha Airport, Narita International Airport, Tokyo International Airport, Osaka Airport, Chubu International Airport, Fukuoka Airport, and Kansai International Airport.)
- Do not fly in airspace within an altitude of 150m (around 493 ft) above the water or ground surface.
- Areas within the vicinity of a search and rescue mission site. This rule is set every time there is a disaster, to give way to unmanned aircraft involved in disaster activities.
Details on flying drones around airports
Restricted height differs with a distance above the “conical surface.”
- Within an area of 4 km around the airport, airspace with an altitude of 45 m or higher, above the “horizontal surface,” is safe to fly your drone.
- An airspace with a height of 45 m to 295 m or higher within 4 to 18.5 km of the airport is safe for operating the drone.
- An airspace over 295m in height with a distance of 18.5 to 24km around the airport, above the outside horizontal surface, is not allowed to fly.
How do I receive approval to fly my drone?
In order to fly a drone in a prohibited zone, you should fill out an application for permission from MLIT. This should happen 10 business days before the planned flight.
Some things to include in the application are the reason for flying, time, and place. Also, you’ll include the duration of the operation, whether one day or several days.
While the application was through the mail in the past, MLIT now has a more convenient application method. The Drone Information Platform Systems (DIPS) site offers straightforward applications before submitting them to MLIT.
The site has an English language option besides Japanese, which is helpful for foreigners.
Other details to enter are whether you have drone insurance or certification. Although this information isn’t necessary, it is recommended. Here are two categories of permission you can acquire:
Permission for prohibitions
If you want to fly your drone in a prohibited area, you must acquire permission from the facility’s right holder or owner. This should be 48 hours before flying the drone. Also, the public safety committee should receive a prior written report along with a photograph of the drone.
Permission against the rule of unmanned drones
If you need to go against situational/ place rules, you must apply 10 days before operating your drone. The place you need to fly will determine where you send your application.
For “above 150 meters” and airspace near airports, you submit the application to the airport office managing the target airspace.
For the other applications, you’ll submit them to the local air station that manages the airspace to operate the drone.
Use of 5GHz radio and FPV goggles
Unlike registration and installation of remote ID functions, which MLIT controls, the use of 5GHz and FPV goggles is under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The law governing it stipulates that the drone should have a radio station license.
Also, you must acquire a radio engineer license if you use the 5.8GHz band or 2.4GHz band having an output power of 10mW /MHz and above.
How do I check for densely inhabited districts?
To look for the densely inhabited districts where a drone over 100g shouldn’t fly, here are straightforward ways to know these areas:
Using the GSI Map
- Open the GSI map for DID and air space near airports. The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan manages this. Click the okay button, which leads to a map.
- Zoom in or out of the specific location you want to check. If an area is among the DID areas, it has a red surrounding and a green surrounding for airspaces near airports.
Using the jSTAT MAP
- Open the jSTAT MAP. It’s among the e-Stat services managed by the Statistics Bureau under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC). This site has Japanese and English, so it’s helpful for people from abroad. Click the start without login button, then proceed to the map.
- Drag and zoom the map to get to the area you want to check. On the screen’s top right, click the DID on the administrative world menu. The densely populated areas are colored red.