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First demonstration of Level 4 drone flights for drug delivery in Japan

First demonstration of Level 4 drone flights for drug delivery in Japan

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Japan Airlines (JAL) reported that a partnership has been signed in Japan to conduct a demonstration of Level 4 drone flights for the delivery of pharmaceutical products in the country.

The demonstration was conducted from December 14 to 20, 2023, in Tokyo's Hinohara Village, marking the first time such flights have been carried out in Japan. Drone flights classified as Level 4 are those beyond visual range line (BVLOS, short for In English) in populated areas.

This demonstration is based on the “Pilot Project to Promote Drone Logistics Implementation in Tokyo” and aims to accelerate the social implementation of drone logistics in the Japanese capital.

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In addition to Japan Airlines, other companies participating in the partnership are: KDDI, KDDI SmartDrone, East Japan Railway, Weathernews, and Mediceo.

JAL explains that clinics and hospitals often rely on courier services to deliver pharmaceutical products, including prescription drugs during online medical consultations. However, with a growing logistics labor shortage in Japan, the use of drones for deliveries is gaining increasing momentum. . .

A recent amendment to the Aviation Law, which came into effect in December 2022, legalized Level 4 drone flights, allowing them to fly over residential areas. This regulatory change opens the door to drone delivery services, allowing pharmaceutical products to be transported unaffected by traffic conditions, road congestion or disasters.

The objective of this demonstration was not limited to a one-day event, but rather over the course of a week to identify and address technical, organizational and operational challenges towards practical implementation.

After the evaluation of this demonstration is completed, it is expected that drone ports that allow for automatic take-off and landing will be introduced in the coming months. More demonstrations will be conducted to verify the safety and unmanned operations of logistics drones.

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In addition to validating the service through this demonstration, an assessment will also be made of the operational and security systems needed, as well as business models, to ensure the sustainability of drone flights.