Japanese-to-English Contest:Translation of award-winners and finalists
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・Aircraft Visibility Improvement
Sighting drones from an aircraft can be difficult due to factors such as aircraft speed and drone size. For these reasons, we conducted an investigation on drone operation and drone airframe structure in regard to developing strategies for improving drone visibility.
First, regarding operation, to prevent issues related to aircraft visibility due to the influence of weather such as clouds and fog, individuals piloting drones should acquire a weather report of the surrounding airspace prior to flying the drone. In addition, drones should not be flown in areas where sufficient visibility cannot be achieved as a result of clouds, fog or other impediments.
Furthermore, we examined strobe lights and highly visible paint colors, but it is necessary to fully verify their effects. In addition, there is concern about battery consumption with high-brightness strobe lights. Moreover, it is required that for flights over 150 meters and during nighttime aviation, the utilization of lights and other such matters are taken as key considerations for examinations. However, since no standard criteria has been set for the placement of lights, from fiscal year 2017 onward, we will conduct an investigation on technology and policies for enhancing the visibility of aircraft, and take action based on these results.
・Tightening Regulations on Areas Surrounding Airports
Regarding the tightening of regulations on areas surrounding airports and other relevant areas: we will conduct an investigation into stricter rules as well as education and training in order to prevent drones from approaching or colliding with aircraft, including the utilization of a geo-fence that prevents physical flight into no-fly zones by using an advanced satellite positioning system.
・Awareness of the Significance and Role of Aviation Information
Aviation information is provided by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to flight crews in accordance with the legal provisions of Article 99. When flying a drone above the Obstacle Limitation Surface of an airport or in airspace 150 meters or more from the surface of sea or land, one must obtain a flying permit and undergo the procedure for the issuance of aviation information. Moreover, a procedure, which is essential for the safe operation of the aircraft has been established, in which the flight crew, dispatchers, and other staff review the aviation information at the time of aircraft operation.
On the other hand, it has been pointed out that, among those who fly drones, there are those who misunderstand current policy and believe that when they have acquired a flight permit and have had aviation information issued, their drone takes priority over manned aircraft. Due to this, we will work to educate drone pilots about the meaning of aviation information and its role using our website and other forms of media.
７．Future Course of Action
Regarding the fundamental rules compiled here: we will integrate them into guidelines and review the examination procedures, which are based on aviation law, and use them to establish the conditions for permits and approval; we will then perform operation evaluations and re-examine them based on new technology developments and the trends of other countries.
Furthermore, we will perform an investigation on these rules, including their legal positioning, based on the results of the aforementioned operations evaluations. In addition, we will investigate the aviation information sharing system, so we will continue to make use of the investigative commission’s offices, and, cooperating with civilians, work toward preventing collisions between drones and airplanes, as well as between drones and other drones.
- Enhancing Drone Visibility
Visual recognition of drones from traditional aircraft remains a difficult task due in large part to the speed of the aircraft coupled with the size of the drone. The panel conducted an investigation on measures to improve drone visibility from the aspects of operation and airframe.
Regarding operation, drone operators should obtain pre-flight weather information for both the intended airspace and the peripheral airspace in order to prevent reduced visibility in cloudy/foggy conditions, and should not fly the drone when adequate visibility cannot be secured.
For the drone airframe, although the panel reviewed installation of strobe lighting and use of high-visibility color coatings, the effectiveness of such methods is still in need of thorough verification. Installation of high-luminance stroboscopic lights raises concern over consumption of battery life, and while outfitting drones with lighting equipment for flights at night or at altitudes greater than 150 meters is recommended in the assessment summary, a standardized position for lighting equipment on the airframe has yet to be established. Consequently, the panel has decided to conduct further inquiry beginning in 2017 into technology and measures that can enhance drone visibility during flight.
- Tightening Regulations Surrounding Aerodromes
The panel will consider tighter regulations around aerodromes, including, but not limited to, the use of geo-fences that render flight inside a non-fly zone physically impossible by means of high-precision satellite positioning. The panel will also consider more stringent rules to prevent collisions with or flying in proximity to regular aircraft, as well as increased awareness and education among those involved in drone operation.
- Raising Awareness of the Significance and Role of Aeronautical Information
Aeronautical information refers here to information offered to flight crew members by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism pursuant to the provision of Article 99 of the Civil Aeronautics Act. If a drone is to be flown above an aerodrome’s obstacle limitation surfaces, or in airspace 150 meters or more above ground or sea, it is necessary to obtain both permission to fly and issuance of aeronautical information. Furthermore, it is an established practice during aircraft navigation for flight crew members and flight dispatchers to confirm aeronautical information, which is crucial for the safety of the flight.
However, it has been noted that some drone operators confuse permission to fly and issuance of aeronautical information for the bestowal of flight priority over traditional aircraft. In light of this factor, the panel seeks to raise awareness of the meaning and role of aeronautical information among drone operators through sharing knowledge via websites and other appropriate outlets.
7. Further Action
The panel will incorporate the basic rules compiled during this investigation into the guidelines and revise the assessment summary based on the Civil Aeronautics Act, and with the requirements of permission and approval, will continue to operate and evaluate as well as exercise flexibility in re-examining its approach based on technological development and the general trend of the international community. In addition, the panel will conduct an investigation to consider the legal aspects of the rules compiled based on the results gained through operation and evaluation.
Furthermore, to conduct another investigation on the state of the flight information sharing system, the panel will utilize ongoing review meetings and engage in government-private cooperation to promote actions that prevent collisions between traditional aircraft and drones as well as between individual drones.
• Improving the visibility of drones
The following is a discussion of the visibility of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, from aircraft. A drone is very difficult to see from an aircraft due to factors such as the speed of the aircraft and size of the drone. We therefore examined two aspects of a procedure to improve the visibility of drones: that is, drone operation and the drone frame visibility.
First, with regards to operation, the operator of the drone should be responsible for obtaining meteorological information about the airspace of the flight path as well as the surrounding airspace. This minimizes the deterioration of the drone’s visibility due to weather conditions such as clouds or fog. In the event of such weather conditions, the drone would not be permitted to fly.
Second, we have examined methods to improve the visibility of a drone’s frame. These methods include the installation of stroboscopic lights or highly visible body paint, but verification of these findings is necessary. In the case of high luminance stroboscopic lights, battery consumption is also a concern. Additionally, although it has been determined that a light must be installed when flying above 150 meters (approx. 492 feet) or at night, standards for the light’s positioning have not been established. Due to this, in 2017, we launched an investigation into techniques and policies to improve drone visibility and intend to use these results to develop a comprehensive plan.
• Increased regulation of airports and the surrounding vicinity
Due to the sophisticated geolocation capabilities of satellites, it is possible to use geofencing to physically delineate areas in which drone flight is prohibited. This is an inflexible policy meant to prevent drones from approaching or colliding with aircraft. Currently, we are conducting a study which will allow us to make informed decisions about strengthening this policy.
• The role and significance of the accessibility of flight information
Article 99 of the Civil Aeronautics Act details the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport’s duty to provide necessary flight information to an aircraft crew. It is necessary to establish a procedure for the issuance of vital data such as flight permission and flight information when operating drones in an airport’s restricted grounds or airspace or when operating at altitudes above 150 meters (approx. 492 feet). Also, it is well-established that individuals such as the aircraft crew and operating staff must confirm flight information when operating an aircraft. This is a vital step that may not be omitted under any circumstance.
Meanwhile, it has been identified that there is a misunderstanding among drone operators that privately-operated drones take priority when obtaining flight information and flight approval. Due to this, we are working to publish the role and significance of flight information with respect to drone operation on our homepage in order to make this information more accessible.
7. Future course of action
Basic policies compiled for this panel include guidelines and a revision of the inspection procedures based on the Civil Aeronautics Law. These policies seek to provide the requirements for the authorization and approval of flight. These laws must remain flexible and open to re-examination based on data from actual drone operation and further assessment of these policies. Review of technological developments and trends in foreign nations must also be taken into consideration. Furthermore, a study of the legality of these policies should be carried out, making use of the conclusions drawn from the aforementioned data.
Also, in order to review the system for sharing flight information, a meeting should be convened between the government and private sector. This meeting should also advance efforts to prevent collisions between drones and planes as well as between drones.
・Improvement of UAV Visibility
The high velocity of aircrafts and small size of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) make it difficult to see UAVs from aircrafts. To resolve this issue, methods of improving the visibility of UAVs have been reviewed from two perspectives: UAV operation and specifications.
First, regarding the operation of UAVs, to prevent loss of visibility caused by weather phenomena such as clouds or fog, it was decided that UAV operators must obtain meteorological information pertaining to the airspace where the UAV is to be operated and surrounding areas. Furthermore, UAVs are not to be operated in conditions where their visibility cannot be ensured.
Next, regarding the method of changing UAV specifications to increase visibility, a study of strobe lights and high visibility paint was conducted, but adequate testing of the results is necessary. The rate of battery consumption by high-intensity strobe lights is also a point of concern. While the installation of lights on UAV operating at night or at altitudes above 150 m is required for flight approval, as standards for light placement have not yet been established, a survey on technologies and methods of increasing UAV visibility is to be conducted during or after FY2017. Measures are to be designed based on these survey results.
・Strengthened Regulations for Areas near Airports
Measures to strengthen the regulation of areas around airports are currently under consideration and include the use of geofencing (which utilizes advanced GNSS in order to physically stop UAVs from entering no-fly zones), stricter rules to prevent UAV operation in close proximity to aircrafts and collisions between UAVs and aircrafts, and enhancing public awareness.
・Public Awareness of Purpose and Role of Aeronautical Information
According to Article 99 of the Civil Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is to provide aeronautical information to aircrews. This aeronautical information is invaluable for safe navigation and it is an established practice that aircrews and aircrafts utilize it to confirm information necessary for the operation of aircrafts. For the operation of UAVs in airspaces above obstacle limitation surfaces such as airports or in airspaces 150 m or higher above the land or water, it is also necessary to apply to receive aeronautical information as well as flight approval.
As it has been pointed out that there are UAV operators who mistaken believe that obtaining flight permission and aeronautical information gives their UAV the right-of-way over manned aircrafts, the purpose and role of the aeronautical information is to be clarified through a public awareness campaign including the provision of information for UAV operators on the website.
7. Future Plans
The basic rules that have been compiled this time are to be incorporated into the guidelines and applied and evaluated by making them a requirement for flight permission and approval, the process of which is also to be revised based on the Civil Aeronautics Act. These rules will also be revised as necessary in accordance with technology development and trends in other countries. Additionally, consideration will be made regarding the legal positioning of the rules based on the results of this application and evaluation.
These panel meetings will continue to be used to study the potential format of an Aeronautical Information Sharing System, and efforts to prevent collisions between aircrafts and UAVs and between UAVs will continue through the collaboration between the public and private sector.
6. Other Considerations
- Improving Airframe Visibility
From inside an aircraft, it is difficult to visually confirm the presence of a nearby unmanned aircraft system (UAS) due to the speed at which aircraft travel and the size of UASs. Accordingly, the panel investigated policies for increasing the visibility of UASs from the two perspectives of operation and airframe design.
First, in regard to operation, to prevent airframe visibility reduction due to the effects of clouds, fog, and other weather conditions, anyone who operates a UAS should, before flying the UAS in question, obtain weather information, both for the airspace in which the UAS is to be operated and for adjacent airspaces. In addition, an operator should refrain from flying in cloudy or foggy conditions in which sufficient visibility cannot be maintained.
Next, in regard to airframe design, the panel investigated measures such as the installation of strobe lights and similar equipment, as well as the use of high-visibility paint. However, it determined that the effectiveness of such measures still needs to be thoroughly verified. Concerns exist regarding the effect of high-intensity strobe lights on battery consumption, and despite operating procedures dictating that lights must be installed on airframes operated at night or at altitudes at or above 150 meters, there is currently no standard regarding the positioning of lights on UAS airframes. To address these issues, from 2017 onward, the panel shall conduct surveys of policies and techniques for improving visibility of airframes, with responses to be formulated based upon their results.
- Tighter Regulations Near Airports
In regard to the need to tighten regulations in areas around airports, the panel will evaluate geo-fencing, or the use of high-precision satellite navigation systems to physically restrict UAS operation in no-fly zones. It will also evaluate the establishment of more rigorous rules, as well as efforts to improve awareness of those rules, with the goals of preventing UASs from being operated in close proximity to aircraft and, consequently, preventing collisions between aircraft and UASs.
- Promoting Awareness of the Roles and Significance of Aeronautical Information
Article 99 of the Civil Aeronautics Act stipulates that aeronautical information is to be provided to aircrews by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. In cases where UASs are to be flown within areas defined as obstacle limitation surfaces or at altitudes at or exceeding 150 meters above ground or sea level, it is necessary for operators to obtain permission to fly and to file aeronautical information regarding flight plans. Confirmation of aeronautical information when an aircraft is to be operated is an established practice, and it serves as an indispensable component for safe operation by aircrews and dispatchers.
The panel was informed that even when permission to fly has been obtained and aeronautical information filed, there are cases in which the UAS operator mistakenly believes that flight of the UAS has been granted precedence over aircraft. Consequently, an awareness campaign shall be implemented using channels such as the Ministry’s homepage, targeting those who operate UASs and informing them of the role and significance of aeronautical information.
7. Future Actions
The basic rules compiled on this occasion shall be incorporated into the Ministry's guidelines, and the operating procedures as based on the Civil Aeronautics Act shall be revised; the rules will be applied and evaluated as conditions for permission and approval of UAS operation, and they shall be adjusted flexibly based on technological developments and trends observed among other nations. Consideration will also be made regarding the establishment of these rules as law, based on the results of this application and evaluation.
Furthermore, the investigation panel shall continue to be utilized to evaluate appropriate design of the Ministry’s “Flight Information Sharing System,” and governmental bodies shall continue to work closely with the public to see that collisions between aircraft and UASs or between UASs themselves are prevented.