Drone services starting to take off in Japan

Domestic companies are coming up with a series of new services that leverage the latest in drone technology.

MicroAd Inc., a Tokyo-based online advertising company, has unveiled a service called Sky Magic to produce sound-and-light extravaganzas. Drones illuminated with LED lights can project logos, words, shapes and pictures in spaces above large-scale events.

At its roll-out event in Chiba in April, five drones flew in a formation depicting an inverted image of Mt. Fuji as a live shamisen performance was held in front of an audience of some 1,300.

The service is intended to create “new information spaces” above outdoor event venues and on stages, MicroAd President Kentaro Watanabe said at the event.

The company has developed a system to automatically synchronize the movements of drones and illuminations in time with music. Each drone is equipped with 660 LED lights.

Currently, the system is capable of controlling 25 drones simultaneously, but the company is targeting formation flying by more than 100 drones by the end of the year for large-scale events at such places as theme parks, stadiums and rugby fields.

Preparation time for shows, including programming, is more than three months. The company plans to set the fee starting at tens of millions of yen. It has received inquiries from Europe and the United States in addition to domestic clients.

Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten Inc. launched a service to deliver golf balls and light meals to customers on a golf course in Chiba, using drones, in early May.

Players can make orders on their smartphones, and drones can deliver items of up to 2 kg, with no delivery charges for the time being.

The firm plans to decide on whether to continue or expand the service after looking at customer feedback for a month.

Rakuten Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Mikitani said the company aims to “adopt the system for delivery services in underpopulated areas and mountainous regions.”

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. has been developing since 2012 drones to be used for recovery work and inspections in the event of a natural disaster.

The drones can carry transmission cables’ lead wires for emergency repairs of communication facilities. Equipped with cameras, they can also check the conditions of damaged equipment in devastated areas.

They were used when a landslide occurred in Saitama Prefecture in August 2013 and when a massive collapse of land occurred along the coast of Hokkaido in April last year.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West Corp. has also deployed such drones since March last year. The drones helped prepare for repairing cables after powerful earthquakes hit Kyushu in April.

From: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/13/business/tech/drone-services-starting-to-take-off-in-japan/#.V16A-_krJnI