Tokyo police arm themselves in drone war against terrorism

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In a first for Japan, Tokyo police will deploy a net-carrying drone to capture unmanned aerial vehicles unlawfully flying over important sites in the capital.

The Metropolitan Police Department’s unit in charge of patrolling the Diet building, the prime minister’s office, the Imperial Palace and other significant locations in Tokyo will be equipped with the drone in mid-December.

“Terrorist attacks using drones carrying explosives are a possibility,” a senior member of the police department’s Security Bureau said. “We hope to defend the nation’s functions with the worst-case scenario in mind.”

Only one crime-fighting drone will be initially deployed. It will be launched if another drone enters restricted airspace and does not comply with police warnings.

Airspace restrictions were tightened when the amended Aviation Law went into effect on Dec. 10 to address the increasing prevalence of drone use by the public.

According to the Security Bureau, a 3-meter-by-2-meter net will hang from the bottom of the six-propeller drone to capture and entangle suspicious drones.

The Metropolitan Police Department had been considering ways to use drones to capture other drones since an unmanned aerial machine carrying radioactive soil from Fukushima Prefecture was found on the roof of the prime minister’s office in April.

After some trial and error, police concluded that a net would allow them to easily catch drones with little worry about them falling and causing injuries on the ground.