Filming with a drone in Japan part 2 - flying in restricted areas.

In the previous post I wrote generally about the restrictions and requirements when flying a drone in Japan and in this post I am going to write about about flying (or not, as the case may be) in restricted areas specifically. Restricted areas are not high population density areas in cities, but those areas around airports and similar where restrictions specific to that area apply. Here, as an example, I am going to write about my recent experience of flying a drone close to Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

flying the Inspire 2 in a restricted area near Haneda Airport

flying the Inspire 2 in a restricted area near Haneda Airport

Flying drones in around Japan airpots - 2 things to check

Flying drones in a restricted area in Japan, in this case around airports, specifically Haneda Airport, requires checking

  • if the drone will be geo-locked by DJI and unable to fly;

  • the height restrictions imposed by the Civil Aviation Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

1 Will the drone be geo-locked and unable to fly?

DJI Flysafe map showing geo-restricted area around Haneda Airport Tokyo

DJI Flysafe map showing geo-restricted area around Haneda Airport Tokyo

The above screenshot is taken from the https://www.dji.com/nz/flysafe/geo-map - flights in the the red circled area are by default prohibited by DJI and the drone will not take off. These are the steps required to unlock this geo-specific lock put on my DJI and enable the drone to fly

  1. Access the DJI site https://www.dji.com/jp/flysafe/custom-unlock

  2. Enter your DJI username email address, aircraft details, proposed flight area and date, and any supporting documentation. You will need your flight controller serial number (found in the DJI Go 4 app), not your aircraft serial number. I attached my Japan country-wide flight permit and just said that the land owner had given me permission to fly (which they had), without attaching any supporting documents for this. Note that you need to make sure the fly zone you apply for is wide enough as once you are in the zone and unlocked flying you cannot fly out of it, without removing the unlock. I put my flyzone width as 300m

  3. DJI should reply within an hour or two with the result

  4. Once the unlock has been approved, you need to import this from the controller into the aircraft. You will need an internet connection for this and it can be down before the flight date so I did this at the office a few days before the flight. Go to general settings > unlocking license > App on the DJI Go 4 app, with the aircraft one and connected. You should see a list of the permitted licenses appear automatically, tap ‘sync’ if they are not.

  5. Tap ‘Import to Aircraft’ and then tap the license you want to activate. A screen similar the below should appear.

inspire2_cendence_tokyo_drone1.png
inspire2_cendence_tokyo_drone2.png
inspire2_cendence_tokyo_drone3.png

If you turn on the license outside of the zone you won’t but able to fly the drone - wait until you are inside the zone to turn on. The license can be turned on or off as many times as you need.

2. Check the legal height restrictions for drone flight

Now that the drone is physically going to be able to fly, you also need to find the height that you will be able to legally fly, as prescribed by the MLIT. There are specific links for each restricted area.

Here are the links for drone flights near Haneda Airport https://secure.kix-ap.ne.jp/haneda-airport/and Narita Airport https://secure.kix-ap.ne.jp/narita-airport/

haneda_airport_drone_permission.jpg
  1. put in the address of the location you want to fly the drone at

  2. click the 「詳細地図表示」button. A close up map of the location will be shown

  3. click the exact location. A large block of text in Japanese will be shown below, but the key part is the height figure shown after 「制限高(標高):約」.

  4. It is important to know that this is the allowable flight height above sea level, not ground level. You then need to find the height of the location above sea level and subtract this from the figure shown.

  5. Find the height of the location above sea level from this site http://portal.cyberjapan.jp/site/mapuse4/

Incidentally, permission to fly higher than the height shown at this site is unlikely to be given. Applications are made to the relevant airport authority but when I applied it was turned down.

In this post I have outlined the 2 things you need to do to fly a drone in a restricted area in Japan - get the geo-lock on the drone temporarily removed by DJI, and check on the MLIT site the height you are legally able to fly. The next post will cover our drone setup/equipment along with general tips for flying in Japan.