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90-year-old Kyoto farmer passes drone pilot test as he aims for 'smart agriculture'

Mamoru Tanaka, left, pilots a drone as directed by an instructor in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, on Dec. 10, 2021. (Mainichi/Koji Sato)

FUKUCHIYAMA, Kyoto -- A 90-year-old man who runs a farming business in this west Japan city obtained a proficiency certification for drone operations on Dec. 10, and is also seeking qualifications to operate large agricultural drones by the spring of 2022.

    Mamoru Tanaka started fully engaging in farming after retiring from the former Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation, and is currently growing rice over about 8,000 square meters of paddies. He began to feel that it was difficult to carry a total of 30 kilograms of spreader and fertilizer on his back, and became interested in drones, which are also being used in the agricultural field.

    At the Drone Pilot Training Association's training center in the Kyoto Prefecture city of Fukuchiyama, Tanaka took a five-hour classroom lecture on aviation law and weather, as recommended by the transport ministry's Civil Aviation Bureau, and 10 hours of flight training before successfully passing the written and practical exams.

    "It was difficult to grasp the distance visually," the 90-year-old recalled of the practical test. He had no trouble flying the drone while standing up, and impressed the instructor with his stability.

    Earlier in December, Tanaka obtained a special large motor vehicle license "to drive a more than 1.7-meter-wide tractor." The nonagenarian is eagerly looking into incorporating "smart agriculture," such as using drones to spread fertilizer, in his business.

    (Japanese original by Koji Sato, Fukuchiyama Local Bureau)

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