japan’s drone sector flying high
Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Japan’s drone sector flying high

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Drones displayed at the International Drone Expo 2015 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba
Chiba, Japan - Arab Today

From high-street playthings to sophisticated commercial and military aircraft, drones are seen as being at the sharp end of technology.
Yet, paradoxically, traditionally low-tech countries such as India and Pakistan are now churning out their own models. The commercial drone business is driven by advances in key components such as sensors, lenses and radio control devices – and manufacturers buy these from producers in advanced tech countries.
"Such components are typically made only in the most advanced nations, particularly Japan," says the Ireland-based journalist Eamonn Fingleton.
"In fact, Japan is the power behind the throne in the drone business," says Mr Fingleton, who has written three books on the economies of east Asian countries.
Shinji Suzuki, a professor in the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo, agrees. "In advanced parts, such as sensors and controllers, Japan is still tops, and I think that will continue in the future," he says.
Not only is drone research and development and use increasing in the country, so is the technology’s economic importance. Impress Corporation, a Japanese IT publishing company, estimates the overall Japanese drone market will be worth ¥113.8 billion (Dh3.56bn) by 2020. A report by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for the embassy of the Netherlands in Tokyo says the Japanese industrial drone market was worth about ¥1.6bn in 2015, and "appears to have started growing in full swing over the past two to three years. It is expected to grow to ¥8.4bn in 2018 and ¥40.6bn in 2022."
Bordering Tokyo, the prefecture of Chiba is at the forefront of research, development and manufacturing of drones. (Japan is divided into 47 prefectures. The capital of Chiba Prefecture is Chiba City.)
Chiba City was designated this year by the Japanese cabinet as a National Strategic Special Zone for developing delivery drones, with a focus on examining institutional and regulatory reforms and the goal of introducing industrial applications of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The project’s technological investigative committee is chaired by the University of Chiba professor emeritus Kenzo Nonami.
Mr Nonami began developing technology for a drone with a completely autonomous control system – a small robot that could fly, from take-off to landing, without any manual control during the flight – in 1998, and in 2001 was the first to succeed at autonomous control during flight. He followed this with success in completely autonomous take-off and landing.
To apply his autonomous control system to drones for a variety of industries, Mr Nonami established in 2013 the Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory (ACSL). ACSL develops its own autopilot/flight controllers that function as the brains of the drone, and is the only company in the country that carries out everything from acquiring parts to manufacture and sales entirely in Japan.
The company imports the drones’ batteries and motor drivers from China but they will be made in Japan soon, Mr Nonami says. "So most of the parts will be made in Japan," he says.
ACSL’s drones can be used for aerial photography, delivery, spraying, measuring and surveying, with potential applications in fields including logistics, agriculture, disaster response, security and infrastructure inspections.
For logistics in particular, the company collaborated in May with the Tokyo electronic commerce and internet company Rakuten on a month-long trial to transport, by drone, items such as drinks and golf balls to players at Camel Golf Resort in Chiba Prefecture’s Onjuku City.
Users described the service as "fun", "cool," "a state-of-the-art service so I am looking forward to using it again", says the Rakuten corporate communications team assistant manager, Yuki Tokaji. "If we can solve problems such as service operational efficiency, we would consider service continuation and expansion, as well as service development at other golf courses," Mr Tokaji says.

Source : The National

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