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Can You Fly a Drone in Kyoto?

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Kyoto on Honshu island was Japan’s capital once upon a time but today still attracts its crowds.

It’s home to wooden homes, Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and Sakura trees. Perhaps your only greater wish than visiting Kyoto is to visit with your drone.

Can you fly a drone in Kyoto?

While Kyoto isn’t restricted airspace, many drone pilots who have visited have found its various rivers and attractions off-limits to them. As is standard, you’re prohibited from using your drone in public parks and gardens and near airports in Kyoto.

This guide will help you plan your trip to Japan and your visit to Kyoto specifically.

We’ll talk more about whether you can fly a drone in this part of Japan, provide some tips for safe flights, and delve into Japan’s drone rules.

Let’s begin!

Can you fly a drone in Kyoto? #

In our research, we couldn’t find any specific laws outlawing drones in Kyoto. We also combed through several drone maps and didn’t see any red outlines around Kyoto, which would denote restricted airspace.

So it sounds like you’re all free and clear, right? Sure, it sounds like it, but that may not entirely be the case.

First and foremost, let’s talk about where you cannot fly in Kyoto.

The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), the governing drone body in the country, prohibits pilots from entering airspace around airports without permission from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Kyoto itself doesn’t have an airport. You’d have to venture about an hour outside of the city limits to reach Osaka International Airport, but the point still stands.

Japan also forbids pilots from using a drone in public parks and gardens. You shouldn’t plan to use your drone in:

  • Kyoto Gyoen National Garden
  • Umekoji Park
  • Kyoto Tamba Kogen Quasi-National Park
  • Maruyama Park and similar parks

Other parts of Kyoto could prohibit drone flights whether they’re standard places that do so or not, so always be on the lookout.

How to fly your drone safely in Kyoto #

The following tips will ensure your business trip or vacation to Japan goes off more favorably, especially if you’re bringing your drone with you.

Use a drone map and check it before you plan a drone flight #

We want to stress that just because Kyoto didnt’t have any restricted airspace that we saw when doing our research, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever have restricted airspace.

Drone apps make planning flights in a new place so much easier. Even if you don’t know the area well, you can follow the parameters of the map to ensure you’re in the clear.

Before you ask, many drone apps that work for operations in the United States should continue to work internationally too. You have to expand your search parameters, but the option is there.

Use it to your advantage, and not just once. It’s best to refresh the maps daily while you’re in Japan.

Be respectful of other people #

It doesn’t matter which part of the world you travel to: people don’t like drones in their private business.

Japan has laws restricting how close a pilot can get to another person with their UAV, and we’ll talk more about that in the next section. What we’re referring to here is just basic, common human decency and courtesy.

Not everyone shares the same love for drones that you do, and even if they do like drones, that doesn’t mean they want one three feet from their face.

The culture in Japan is largely nonconfrontational, so even if you offended someone, they might never tell you. Do the right thing and don’t even let it reach that point.

Never get too close to property #

Kyoto has some of the most breathtaking shrines you can witness with your own two eyes. To preserve those and the rest of the beautiful, delicate architecture the city is known for, watch how close you’re flying to property.

If someone tells you to stop using your drone, be sure to do so #

We’ve heard of instances where drone pilots were operating a UAV in Kyoto and someone with the official capacity to do so told them to stop flying.

In a situation like that, you should respectfully listen. Don’t wait for the person to leave and then resume your activities. Pack it up and head out.

Be mindful of signs you see barring drones #

Kyoto may have signs around the city limits prohibiting drones. As we said before, in lieu of restricted airspace notifications on a map, you could see these signs instead.

They’re still an official notice not to fly, so abide by the signs.

Plan another place to fly nearby #

In case you can’t fulfill your dreams of using your drone in Kyoto, it’s best to have a backup plan (and maybe even a backup plan to that backup plan) so you can capture images or videos around the city without venturing into the city.

Japanese drone rules to know ahead of your trip to Kyoto #

Abiding by JCAB flight rules is also integral as you use your drone in Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan, so here’s an overview.

No flying over an airport without permission #

To cement the rule we mentioned earlier, you must have the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism permission to fly in any airspace around airports.

That includes outer horizontal surfaces, conical surfaces, extended approach surfaces, transition surfaces, horizontal surfaces, and over approach surfaces in:

  • Kansai International Airport
  • Tokyo International Airport
  • Naha Airport
  • Narita International Airport
  • Fukuoka Airport
  • Osaka International Airport
  • New Chitose Airport
  • Chubu Airport

Do not operate your drone over DIDs #

A DID is a Densely Inhabited District. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism creates the parameters for DIDs and prohibits pilots from operating over them.

Do not fly your drone more than 150 meters over ground level #

In Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan, you can’t fly your drone higher than 150 meters or 492 feet over the ground.

Don’t drop objects with your drone #

Whether accidentally or intentionally, you’re strictly prohibited from carrying and then releasing carried objects with your UAV from any height.

No carrying hazardous materials or objects #

Drones can carry cargo in Japan, but nothing deemed hazardous like explosives.

Stay away from crowded areas #

During large, crowded events like sporting events, concerts, or festivals, your drone must limit its distance from the throng. Do not fly over people.

Maintain a distance of 30 meters from people #

For smaller gatherings of people, you must maintain a distance of approximately 30 meters or 98.4 feet while using your drone.

You’re also required to stay that far away from private property.

Keep your drone in your visual line of sight #

When using your drone in Japan, it must stay in your visual line of sight, which refers to how far you can see the drone with your naked eye or when using contacts or glasses.

Only use your drone during daylight hours #

You can get an early start to the day, rising with the sun, and fly until the sun begins setting, but you cannot use your drone after dark in Japan.

Fly your UAV safely #

JCAB expects drone pilots to avoid reckless drone operation. You should only use your drone when not under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Before you launch, do a preflight checklist, and repeat this every time you take to the skies during your time in Kyoto.

Conclusion #

Kyoto is a beautiful part of Japan that drone pilots naturally flock to. While you can fly in this city, you’re prohibited from doing so around airports or national parks.

You should use a drone map to determine where in Kyoto you can use your drone.

Keep in mind that some parts of Kyoto outlaw drone activity with signs rather than making the area restricted airspace in an app, so watch for the signs.

Follow other JCAB laws and regulations, and you should capture some amazing drone footage and have a blast doing so. Happy travels!


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