Flying a Drone While Drunk Could Land You in Prison in Japan

By Andrew Liszewski on at

You’d assume it would go without saying that operating any kind of machinery or vehicle after a few drinks is a dumb idea—even if it’s one navigated by remote control. But as reported by the BBC, this week, Japan’s parliament has passed a law making it illegal to pilot a drone while intoxicated. If you’re going to party there, make sure to bring a designated pilot with you.

The severity of punishment for being caught intoxicated while at the controls of a drone varies (presumably based on how much you’ve had, or what’s happened to the drone), but the maximum penalties can include up to a year in prison or fines of up to 300,000 yen, which works out to about £2,190. Those penalties apply to drones weighing more than 200g, which means the law covers many smaller drones as well.

The new legislation also includes fines for dangerous flying, even for pilots who aren’t drunk. Think it’s funny to pretend to dive bomb a crowd of people with your drone? You could walk away with a hefty 500,000 yen (£3,660) fine if caught performing a stunt like that. The legislation also expands no-fly zones for drones in Japan. In addition to nuclear power plants and government buildings, drones now can’t fly within 300 metres of Japanese military bases, U.S. military personnel, or other facilities connected to the country’s armed forces, without specific permission.

With the 2020 Olympics quickly approaching, it’s also very illegal to pilot a drone anywhere near the stadiums and venues in Japan, even well ahead of the games. It sounds strict, but Japan doesn’t require every drone operator to be licensed, as long as pilots stick to daytime flights, keep their crafts below 150 metres, avoid crowds and airports, and never lose sight of their drones.