Japan to End Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight Regulations by End of 2018

BVLOS regulations have hampered commercial drone companies for years, preventing automated drone deliveries from taking off. Japan is scrapping them.

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The beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) regulation is perhaps the most hampering of all, in terms of commercial drone companies accomplishing their aerial delivery goals. The law, staunchly regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, requires drones to stay within an operator’s line of sight. Naturally, that makes it difficult for companies like Amazon (or your local pizza franchise) to establish an autonomous aerial delivery system. If every delivery requires a pilot to stay within sight of the unmanned aerial vehicle, drone deliveries don’t make a lot of financial sense, never mind the practical aspects. Fortunately for Japanese corporations, this regulation seems to be coming to a swift end in the country. 

According to The Japan Times, Japan’s transport and industry ministries announced new rules on Thursday, with plans of implementation scheduled for the end of 2018. BVLOS drone missions will be permitted, without the need of an operator maintaining visual line of sight, as long as the flight’s safety can be guaranteed remotely via cameras and sensors. How exactly they intend on ensuring such missions is yet to be clarified, but there are certainly enough proponents of this regulation to be altered or removed for this to be a victory for many. 

The motivation here is clear. It simply makes too much business sense for the government to alleviate restrictions like these for commercial clients in the country. In addition, this would allow for far easier transportation of goods and materials to remote, rural, and mountainous areas. The one reported caveat, as of now, is that any drone traveling beyond the visual line of sight must have a history of safe flight missions, and fly below 492 feet (150 meters). 

All in all, this is a huge victory for those eager to finally move forward with package deliveries, and something the U.K. recently considered doing, as well.