Drone Ban In Force Around Tokyo Parks, Govt Buildings

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Drones may be frequently hailed as a breakthrough, futuristic technology, but the Tokyo government is not so impressed by the hovering devices.

According to the BBC, the capital’s municipal government has banned the use of flying drones in all of 81 of its public parks, and warned that anyone violating the ordinance could be fined ¥5,000 ($41) for each offense.

The ban was announced in mid-May, but its origins stem from the end of April, when a man flew a camera-equipped drone, via remote control, onto Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office. An article in the Asahi Shimbun says that traces of cesium, a radioactive material, were found on the quadcopter, which was 50 cm in diameter and even featured radiation warning symbols etched on its exterior.

An investigation revealed the source of the drone’s radioactive traces: it was carrying a package of sand from Fukushima, where the soil has been contaminated by nuclear reactors that were damaged in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The drone’s pilot, Yasuo Yamamoto, admitted to fitting the remotely controlled copter with the radioactive dirt, and flying it onto Abe’s office, as an act of protest to the government’s nuclear policies and handling of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The 40-year-old pilot turned himself into police, according to The Guardian, which added that he could be sentenced to three years in prison. The Japan Times went on to report that the Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to take Tokyo’s current ban one step further by outlawing the flying of drones near key buildings like the Diet, the Supreme Court, the Imperial Palace and, of course the Prime Minister’s office. If passed, this new ban would impose a far harsher penalty of ¥500,000 ($4,187) on violators. The government also hopes to further discourage any dangerous use of drones by imposing a registration system on all pilots of such remote controlled copters, making it easier to track down anyone who steers their drone into the wrong zone.

So, if you’re thinking of following in the footsteps of music video pioneers OK Go and filming your genre-bending masterpiece in Yoyogi Park … you might want to think again.

—Kyle Mullin

Image: Flickr user Ted Eytan via CC

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