Drones Turn Into Delivery Boys In Japan

Asif Khan

Home delivery will never be the same again.

Japan has started to test out drones as "delivery boys" in the country's Chiba prefecture, a first-of-its-kind initiative in an urban area.

The trial run – or rather, flight – saw drones loaded with delivery goods flying between shopping malls, nearby parks and apartment buildings.

The demo was kicked off on the rooftop of Aeon Mall Makuhari Shintoshin, a massive shopping centre in Chiba, reported Asahi Shimbun. A bottle of wine was loaded onto a drone, and then the aircraft was sent flying. The drone landed safely at its target destination, a nearby park. The wine bottle was reported to be in good shape, with not a scratch on it.

In fact, in December the city of Chiba was designated as a special zone for drone development, freeing it up from the rules governing drones in other parts of the country.

This move was in keeping with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's promise to industry groups in November to speed up drone-based parcel delivery mechanisms.

"We will aim to make parcel delivery by drone a reality, as soon as three years from now. For this purpose the government will immediately establish the Public-Private Council, in which users and the relevant ministries and agencies will discuss the specific structural and systemic requirements."

To aid this plan, the city wants its upcoming condominiums and highrises to have, on each of their balconies, a "landing area" for drones.

The drone trial is also a sort of R&D exercise that will help the drone builders fine-tune their machines, ensuring that the drones work smoothly, even in adverse weather conditions. It will also help in setting up a "traffic control" for drones, a system that makes sure drones do not collide with each other or with other flying objects in the sky (or even with static objects like electric poles, wires, etc).

This drone trial is not the first one in Japan. In February, drones were tested in the rural areas of Tokushima prefecture too, according to another Japan Times report. The aim of this experimental demo was to deliver food parcels to elderly citizens living in sparsely populated regions.

A government official had explained to Japan Times the potential benefits of this exercise.

"[Delivery drones] would address the shortage of delivery truck drivers, reduce time and costs, and be a relief for seniors in thinly populated areas who have become shopping refugees."