Desperate times call for desperate measures. Japan is one of the few developed countries that have been facing shortages in their workforce. Their desperate measure to account for this shortage, directly affecting private and government setups, was allowance for an ease in regulations that restricted the usage of drones in public areas. The reason that Japan eased their regulation was to encourage companies and start-ups to opt for autonomous business solutions and smart technological alternatives to regular, every-day services; like package delivery.
Following the ease in regulations, Japan Post Co. has made use of the opportunity to test smart solutions for their services. Japan Post Co., a postal, logistics and courier company headquartered in Tokyo, has begun transporting and delivering documents by drone since Wednesday 7th November 2018 in the Fukushima Prefecture. Fukushima was the scene of an energy accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, initiated primarily by the tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake on 11 March 2011.
Initially, the company is using drones to carry their own documents between two different post offices as a feasibility study before launching drone-based services commercially, if proven viable.
The actual restriction that has been eased is that earlier regulations required an operator to keep a drone in direct sight while they operated it. This seriously limited the applications of autonomous systems installed in drones as the drone was not allowed to travel long distances at fast speeds, rendering the commercial applications of aerial robotics in public and private sector such as paramedic, traffic control and logistical setups.
During their initial testing, the drone carried New Year cards and pictures of drones drawn by children. The drone delivered the documents from one post office to another, 9 kilometers apart, in just 15 minutes.
“This will be a turning point for logistics. I’m happy to receive these drawings full of dreams,” Namie Mayor Kazuhiro Yoshida said.
As their future plan with this idea, Japan Post Co. looks forward to operating the drone commercially; at a speed of 54 kilometers per hour, carrying two kilograms of packages during a single flight, operating six days a month and up to two round-tips in a day.