drone-fukushimavia the-japan-news.com / February 21, 2015 / The nation’s first mass production of drones will kick off this year at a plant near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, drone expert Kenzo Nonami and product prototype manufacturer Kikuchi Seisakusho Co. said Friday.

Kikuchi Seisakusho plans to produce 400 unmanned surveillance aircraft at its plant in Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture. “Fukushima is a suitable production site given its need to measure radiation,” said Nonami, a professor at Chiba University. “We also hope that production will help the region’s recovery.”

The drone, 50 centimeters in height and 90 centimeters in diameter, can fly for up to 30 minutes at a time at speeds of up to 36 kph. With six propellers, it weighs only about three kilograms but can carry loads of up to six kilograms. It will be priced at around ¥2 million to ¥3 million.

The drone made a demonstration flight Friday, taking photos from 20 meters above the ground. A larger drone currently under development, with the capacity to carry loads of up to 30 kilograms, was also shown.

The use of drones is expected to spread for tasks such as measuring radiation, shooting movies and monitoring social infrastructure such as bridges, as well as for work related to the decommissioning of reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The United States is considering regulating the use of drones to protect privacy and ensure safety. A similar debate may also take place in Japan ahead of their full implementation.

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