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Hiroshima man arrested over drone flight above Japan MSDF base

The drone a man is accused of flying over the Maritime Self-Defense Force regional headquarters in Kure is seen in this photo provided by Hiroshima Prefectural Police on Nov. 19, 2019. (Mainichi/Akihiro Nakajima)

HIROSHIMA -- Police on Nov. 19 sent case files to prosecutors on a man accused of flying a drone over the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) regional headquarters in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

The 50-year-old resident of the prefectural town of Kumano is suspected of piloting the approximately 150-gram drone over the MSDF facility at about 4:35 p.m. on Sept. 21 this year. According to the prefectural police, the man is the first person to be arrested under Japan's 2016 drone restriction law, which bans devices under 200 grams from approaching specific important facilities.

Case documents state that the drone was found by a staffer of the regional HQ, who then reported it to Hiroshima Prefectural Police's Kure Police Station. According to investigators, there was an SD card in the drone containing aerial footage of the MSDF base.

"I knew it was forbidden to fly (the drone) there, but I did it to practice," the suspect was quoted as telling police.

Japan's drone restriction law is separate from Civil Aeronautics Act provisions regulating unmanned aircraft, and even covers craft weighing less than 200 grams. Furthermore, legal revisions that went into effect in June this year designated the airspace above defense facilities as out-of-bounds, according to police.

(Japanese original by Akihiro Nakajima, Hiroshima Bureau)

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