Are Drones Illegal in Tokyo? - Where to fly a drone in Tokyo

drone tokyo

Hey Drone Lovers!

You might be wondering if you can fly your drone in Tokyo. The answer is yes, but it very difficult.

I've been flying my drone for about a year now and I've learned how strict the regulation is here in Japan compared to many other countries. 

The Japan Drone Laws and Regulations and how the application works are pretty clearly stated on How to Fly a Drone in Tokyo | Japan Drone Laws and Regulations, but in this blog, I would like to explain a bit more detail on why it is so hard to find a place to fly a drone in Tokyo and where you can fly.


Why is it so hard to find a place to fly a drone in Tokyo?

First, let me tell you that it is very difficult to find a place to fly a drone in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Metropolitan area is basically almost an all NO-FLY ZONE which means you need to get a permission from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). If you are planning of flying a drone in Tokyo, I would recommend to start applying for a permission as soon as possible. 

So, here are some of the answers:

Answer 1 - Because You need an additional permission from land owners or property management of flight point

drone tokyo flight

Even with a permission from the MLIT you need additional permission from the land owner or property management of the flight point.  I am Japanese and I tried to negotiate with many land owners and property management and I have not received any positive responses.  I'm sure it's harder for people who do not speak Japanese and can't clearly explain their reasoning. 

One possible reason that people don't want to allow drone flights in their property is because Japanese Media has been broadcasting many drone incidents which has given drone flying a bad image in Japan.  People generally don't want to be involved in any trouble and is likely why land owners usually say no if you ask.  

Also, it's Japanese culture to automatically say no to something that they don't know or understand.  

Answer 2 - BEcause There are MULTIPLE laws THAT PREVENT drone flightS IN TOKYO

tokyo drone regulations

These are the laws you need to know before deciding a place to fly your drone.

Please read How to Fly a Drone in Tokyo | Japan Drone Laws and Regulations for Aviation Law. 
(You can also check from MLIT website: http://www.mlit.go.jp/en/koku/uas.html

Now let's look at each law closely.

- Act on Prohibition of Flight of Small-sized Aircrafts, etc.

So this law basically made all important national facilities and 300m around those areas 'NO-FLY' zones.  

You cannot fly over House of Parliament, Prime Minister's office residence, other important national facilities, Embassies of foreign countries and Nuclear site. See more details at Fly a DRONE in Japan | 4 Things you need to know other than the Aviation Law.

They uploaded a map of the restricted areas in Tokyo. (Inside of red lines are the important national facilities and the inside of blue lines are 300m surrounding area.)

 photo credit: http://www.npa.go.jp/bureau/security/kogatamujinki/pdf/map.pdf

photo credit: http://www.npa.go.jp/bureau/security/kogatamujinki/pdf/map.pdf

- Road Traffic Law

drone tokyo flight

To take off or land on public streets and sidewalks, you need to get a permission for public road usage to local police department.  I would say just don't use public streets as a flight point. 

However, you may fly over the street as long as it won't disturb cars and people on the street.  You also need to get a permission if there will be any disturbance to traffic.

- Civil Law Act

drone tokyo flight

The Civil Law Act 207 states as below. (Translation may not be precise.)

 Property ownership applies above and below the property.  

So, it means that the property ownership extends to the airspace (It's said that up to 300m). 

This actually is a very delicate topic to discuss and it is kind of a gray zone.

The question is - does that mean you need to contact every land owners on your flight path?  I thought it would be crazy to call every property owners on my flight path so I checked if it would be a crime or I will be dined.  As is is said in the Civil Law Act 709, (Translation may not be precise.)

The person who infringes another person's rights by intention or negligence shall be liable to compensate damage.

So it definitely is a violation of civil law but it appears that it is less likely to be considered that a drone passing hundreds meters above is 'damage' as it is discussed in the Mizuho Chuo Law Office . 

- Tokyo public parks and gardens (Regulation by Prefectures and Cities)

drone tokyo

After drone was discovered flying over the Prime Minister's office residence, Tokyo prefecture banned UAV including drones on April 28th 2015.  

Here are the list of parks and gardens that are banned for drone flights. They are in Japanese but You can find English name next to the Japanese.

If the park is under a specific Ward and so on, you may have a shot.  Call the management office and ask.  

Where can I fly a drone then?

All in all, I'm sure you want to know where you can fly your drone.  Without violating these basic regulations, all you need to do is to get a permission from land owner or property management directly.  

BASIC JAPAN DRONE LAWS AND REGULATIONS

  • Must NOT fly above 150 meters (492 feet)

  • Must NOT fly within 9 km of airports

  • Must keep at least 30 meters (98 feet) away from people, buildings and vehicles

  • Must NOT fly at night

  • Must always maintain Visual Line of Sight (VLoS) when operating the drone

  • Must NOT transport hazardous materials such as explosives on the drone

  • Must NOT drop any objects from the drone

  • Must NOT be flown in any of Metropolitan Tokyo’s 81 public parks and gardens

  • Must NOT fly over densely populated areas like cities (4000 people per square kilometer or more)

  • Must NOT fly over densely populated areas such as festivals and events   

 

After turned down by so many places, I was kind of heart broken and decided to fly a little bit outside of Tokyo.  West side of Tokyo like Hachioji are not in NO-FLY zone, so that could be one choice. 

tokyo drone rules

Anyways, I hope this blog helps you understand the drone regulations in Japan.

To get a permission from MLIT, you can receive a free consultation from a lawyer here.