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NO-FLY ZONES

Tokyo police are deploying drones that use nets to capture drones

Reuters/Thomas Peter
No more of this.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

This post has been corrected.

In April, a drone landed radioactive material atop the Japanese prime minister’s official residence. (Its operator was angry about plans to restart the nation’s nuclear reactors.) After that incident, Tokyo’s police department has now announced drone counter-measures involving—you guessed it—drones.

Starting this month, the police drones will carry nets through the air to capture unwanted intruders flying above sensitive areas. A specialized unit will make trained personnel available around the clock to operate them.

The police unit will give an initial warning via loudspeaker in case an operator of an intruder drone is nearby and willing to cooperate; if not, it will attempt a capture. The Mainichi newspaper’s website has a video of a demonstration capture from Tokyo’s police department.

The idea of catching drones this way isn’t new, and Tokyo’s police chose the method after reviewing various anti-drone efforts underway in other nations. A video posted in January by France’s Groupe Assmann shows the same idea in action:

Yesterday (Dec.10), amendments to Japan’s civil aeronautics law came into effect prohibiting drones flying in densely populated residential areas and near airports. Violators could be fined as much as ¥500,000 (about $4,145).

Japan is not the only nation worried about intrusive drones. In February, authorities in Paris grew alarmed by drones seen flying at night over landmarks and sensitive areas, including subway stations. In January, a drunken government employee flew a drone over the White House in Washington, DC. And near misses between passenger planes and helicopters are on the rise in the US and worldwide.

Chinese drone maker DJI has a “geofencing” feature that automatically prevents its products from entering sensitive airspace, such as over prisons, airports, and power plants. In the US, legislation has been proposed to make that feature mandatory.

A previous version of this post stated the wrong yen-to-dollar conversion for the fine for violators of the civil aeronautics law.

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