Mandatory Registration of
Unmanned Aircraft in Japan
by Yoshihiro Fujimaki
1. Background and Overview
One of the major problems currently occurring with inappropriate flights by Unmanned Aircraft (UA) is that the aircraft cannot be identified and so appropriate and necessary safety measures cannot be taken against the owner of the UA when needed. In addition, because the use of UAs has been on the rise due to such factors as the growing shortage of personnel in the logistics and security industries, the increasing demand for survey and investigation flights over wide areas, and the creation of business models that utilize UAs in remote island and depopulated mountainous regions, it is becoming extremely important to know who is the owner of each UA.
Based on the above circumstances, like other countries, registration of UAs will be mandatory in Japan from June 20, 2022. This is based on an amendment of the Civil Aviation Act, and the bill was approved by the National Diet of Japan in June 2020.
From June 20, 2022, most UAs will have to be marked with a registration ID to identify them, and also be fitted with a remote ID function. UAs which will be excluded from these requirements are limited to those weighing less than 100 grams. Meanwhile, UAs which weigh equal to or less than 0.55 pound (about 250 grams) are excluded from similar requirements in the United States. This point is one major item that is different between the US and Japan and is not to be overlooked.
2. How to RegisterThe application for registration can be done online or by submitting necessary physical documents. It is required to enter/complete the information such as the name and address of the owner and the user of the UA, as well as the manufacturer and model of the UA in the application. Even if a UA has been registered in a foreign country, that UA has to be registered based on the Civil Aviation Act for it to be flown in Japan.
The registration of the UA is subject to strict identification of the owner. This process can be done online or by postal mail. In the case that the owner is an individual resident of Japan, an individual number card, Japanese driver’s license or Japanese passport is required for online identity verification. In the case that the owner is a foreign individual who does not have a residence in Japan, a copy of the passport of the owner plus a copy of a document issued by a public institution that verifies the name, address, and date of birth of the owner are required to be sent by postal mail.
The identity verification process may take 1-5 days after the documents arrive. Once the identity verification has been completed, information for fee payment is notified by email. The registration fee varies by application method, and is between 900 Japanese Yen (about 8 US dollars) and 2,400 Japanese Yen (about 20 US dollars).
In 1-5 days after the fee payment, the registration ID will be issued to the UA. This registration ID must be clearly visible on the UA with marker and stickers, with the marking font being at least 3mm in the case of aircraft weighing less than 25 kg. The registration ID also has to be registered to remote ID equipment using a dedicated smartphone application. Please refer to the next section about the remote ID.Registration of the UA is valid for 3 years, therefore re-registration is required every 3 years.
3. Remote ID
Remote ID (RID) is a function that transmits identification information remotely via radio waves. A UA must be equipped with this RID function to fly, except for special cases such as flying over specific areas which are notified in advance to the government and with necessary safety measures taken.
In Japan, similarly to the US, RID equipment is classified into a built-in type or an external (attached) type. But, while there are some differences of information between the built-in type (Standard RID) and external type (RID Broadcast Module) in the US, information from both types of RID equipment is the same in Japan. That information includes the registration ID and serial number of the UA, and dynamic information such as location, speed, altitude and time more than once per second, but does not include information about the owner or user.
Information from RID equipment can be received by anyone using an appropriate smartphone or receiver. Law enforcement officers can trace the information of the owner and the user of the UA based on received information of its registration ID.
4. Special Reminder to Tourists Who Plan to Fly UAs in Japan
As described in section 2, even if a UA has been registered in a foreign country, that UA has to be registered based on the Civil Aviation Act for it to be flown in Japan. The registration process may take more than 1 week, therefore that period should be taken into account.
Also, using radio equipment which does not have the Japanese Technical Conformity Mark may be regarded as illegal to use in Japan, even if that equipment is based on a foreign standard.
In addition, there are several flight rules to be followed. Please refer the JCAB website for details.