Multiple drones flown in Minamisoma city to test aerial control system

17 March 2017

A consortium of academic, research, administrative and business establishments conducted a field experiment in Minamisoma city, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 16 to test a management system aimed at ensuring the safe flight of multiple unmanned aerial drones from different operators in the same air space. The test, held by the Japan Unmanned System Traffic & Radio Management Consortium (JUTM), was the first attempt of the kind in Japan, according to officials of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

JUTM, which includes the University of Tokyo's graduate school and the Fukushima prefectural government, has developed the system to control multiple flying drones on a computer screen. With the future spread of commercial and other practical uses of drones in sight, the consortium is seeking to prevent midair collisions. In the experiment, a control office was set up in the Urajiri public hall in the city's Odaka district and a flight zone of 2 kilometers in radius and 150 meters in height was put in place above rice paddies. The test was joined by nine companies and two research institutes, including Yamato Holdings Co. and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

Amid strong winds, a total of eight drones repeated tests in groups of two to three, practicing takeoffs and landings as well as flights related to their mission of goods distribution and post-disaster investigation. Consortium members, led by JUTM head Shinji Suzuki, professor at the university's School of Engineering, Aeronautics and Astronautics, issued instructions to keep the drones inside the designated zone while confirming their positions on the screen.

(Photo) A drone (upper right) prepares to land following another (foreground, left) that arrived earlier.

(Translated by Kyodo News)