Japan expands drone classes to create skilled pilot pool

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 1:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 1:30am

Schools offering lessons in piloting drones are increasing in Japan as more seasoned operators are needed for industrial purposes such as logistics as well as disaster response.

While simply flying a drone is not a complicated process, operating them for surveying or disaster sites requires certain techniques.

In March, the drone pilot school in the city of Kai, Yamanashi Prefecture, operated by the Japan Aviation Academy, lowered the eligibility for entrance from age 20 to 16.

In addition to practical coaching, students at the school can learn about civil aviation and radio laws, as well as understanding sudden weather changes from the movement of clouds and wind direction.

“The lessons are practical and I am learning a lot. I hope to use the skills for disaster prevention and helping people,” said Tsurugi Hatano, a 16-year-old high school student in the city of Tsuru, Yamanashi.

Since the end of May, more than 100 such schools have been operating in Japan, according to the Japan UAS Industrial Development Association and the Drone Pilot Association.

Many drones used for surveying are equipped with global positioning systems and their propellers are usually automatically adjusted. But for their stable flight even in times of system failures, certain operational techniques are necessary to prevent them from being swept away by strong winds.

In June, the Yamanashi Survey and Planning Association began sending employees of its member companies to the drone pilot school to improve their skills.

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“A drone allows us to survey an object by approaching it and this is expected to enhance our work efficiency,” an association official said.

Drones could be effective in search efforts for missing persons in mountains or disaster sites.

The fire service of Naruto in Tokushima Prefecture has introduced a drone with thermography and educated its staff about drone operation by engaging an external instructor.

The department says it plans to increase the number of drones and pilots.

Tomoyuki Kumada, secretary general of the Japan UAS Industrial Development Association, said the use of drones in the industrial field has just begun.

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“There is an urgent need to train pilots who can calmly respond to situations even when drones fly away to an unexpected direction because of technical problems,” Kumada said.