Drones have revolutionized photography, aided conservation, transported organs for donations, and even assisted in search and rescue missions. But the remote-controlled flying machines aren’t always used for good. They’ve illegally delivered drugs to inmates, spooked an elderly Turkish farmer, and grounded flights at one of the world’s busiest airports.
So, Japan's government is taking them seriously, making it illegal to drunkenly fly them earlier this week. Under new legislation passed Thursday, Japanese citizens caught taking drones bigger than 200 grams (7 ounces) for a boozy spin will face up to a year in prison and be fined up to 300,000 yen ($2,750).
In addition to drunk droning, the new laws will target people performing dangerous stunts, such as diving their drones towards crowds, threatening them with fines of up to 500,000 yen ($4,600).
"We believe operating drones after consuming alcohol is as serious as (drink) driving," a transport ministry official told AFP.
Japan is not the only nation to take a stand against unsafe drone use. Back in January, Canada’s Transport Minister announced new regulations banning drones from flying near airports and emergency scenes and prohibiting their pilots from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drunk droning was also outlawed in New Jersey last year, as was the use of drones near prisons and to chase wildlife.
Japan’s new laws also prevent drones from being flown within 300 meters (985 feet) of the armed forces and defense-related facilities without permission and drone users must adhere to a specific set of rules. These include flying only in daylight, avoiding crowds, not losing sight of your drone, and flying no higher than 150 meters (490 feet).
Japan has seen a spate of drone-related incidents in recent years, compelling the government to take action. Back in 2017, a large drone at Ogaki city’s robot festival was meant to shower children with candy, however, it plummeted to the ground injuring six people instead.
In 2015, security concerns were raised when a drone equipped with a camera and bottle filled with unidentified content landed on the roof of the offices of Japan’s prime minister. Traces of radiation were apparently detected on the drone, but thankfully no one was harmed.
With drone-related incidents regularly being reported across the continents, and rising concerns about their potential threats to privacy, banning drone driving under the influence seems like a pretty good idea.