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Joint Press Release with NEDO, Fukushima Prefecture and Minamisoma City World’s First Success in Long-distance Air Freight Shipment by a Fully-Autonomous Drone! Challenging a drone demonstration in the Fukushima Hama-Dori Robot Test Zone!

On January 12 (Thur.), 2017, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Fukushima Prefecture, Minamisoma City, and Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory Ltd. (ACSL) jointly conducted a demonstration test of long-distance air freight shipment by a fully-autonomous, rotary-wing drone along the seashore line in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, and succeeded in the test for the first time in the world.

1. Outline

At the Second Public-Private Dialogue towards Investment for the Future on November 5, 2015, Prime Minister Abe issued an instruction that Japan should aim to realize freight shipment by drones within three years from 2015 at the earliest possible time. As shown in the instruction, it is expected that drones will play an active role in the field of distribution.

On January 12 (Thur.), 2017, METI, NEDO, Fukushima Prefecture, Minamisoma City and ACSL jointly conducted a demonstration test of long-distance air freight shipment by a fully-autonomous, rotary-wing drone along the seashore line in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, and succeeded in the test for the first time in the world. The demonstration test was a part of the NEDO project for the development of performance evaluation methods for drones used in delivery services,* and led by ACSL. The demonstration test was performed along the seashore line in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, taking advantage of the Fukushima Hama-Dori Robot Test Zone project,** an initiative in which Fukushima Prefecture and Minamisoma City offer demonstration sites for robot or drone tests.

The NEDO project aims to define evaluation methods for use-based performance and safety of drones and other robots, e.g., evaluation criteria, performance levels according to such criteria, and test methods for the measurement of standard performance. The results of the demonstration test will be utilized in research and development concerning performance evaluation methods and other measures for measuring the freight performance of drones to be used in the distribution industry.

Moreover, considering the initiatives under the Fukushima Hama-Dori Robot Test Zone project, such as the demonstration test this time, as the first step toward the achievement of the Fukushima Innovation Coast Scheme, a measure for creating new industries in Fukushima Prefecture to facilitate reconstruction, METI will endeavor to advance robot industrial cluster efforts in Fukushima Prefecture also in collaboration with the Robot Test Field,*** demonstration bases for robots and drones planned to be constructed in Minamisoma City and Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture.

Notes:
*1: The NEDO project is called “Research and Development Program for the Development of Performance Evaluation Methods for Drones Used in Delivery Services.” It is under the topic “Research and Development Program for Robot Performance Evaluation Methods” of "Robot and Sensor System Development Project for Infrastructure Maintenance and Disaster Survey."

**2: Fukushima Prefecture has been selecting, mediating and coordinating demonstration sites, e.g., bridges at the Hama-Dori area, tunnels, dams and rivers, and hills and fields, for robots and drones, technologies utilized in the fields of distribution, infrastructure inspection or disaster response, to help demonstrators smoothly achieve drone and robot demonstration tests in the environments of practical use of such drones. As a part of the effort, the prefecture has run 16 successful demonstrations for 47 days in total from the inauguration of the project in FY2015 to date. This time, the prefecture coordinated preparatory matters for conducting long-distance air freight shipment by a drone along the seashore line in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, in response to the results of consultations with NEDO and ACSL.

***3: Robot Test Field is demonstration test base for robots and drones, technologies utilized in the fields of distribution, infrastructure inspection or disaster response, in which mock-up facilities for testing the robots and drones in practical environments are provided, including runways and flight test sites for drones, tunnels, bridges, mock-up city areas, and large reservoirs. The bases are planned to open sequentially in FY2018.

2. Details of the demonstration test

A drone called “ACSL-PF1,” a base model of drones called “Tenku,” dedicated to the Sora Raku drone-based delivery service to be offered by Rakuten Inc., flew along the seashore line for around 12 km in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture (from Murakami Castle Remains in Odaka Ward, Minamisoma City, to Kitaizumi Swimming Beach in Haramachi Ward, Minamisoma City), and completed a long-distance air freight shipment utilizing fully-autonomous control function. The test results are expected to be utilized in freight shipment not only during peacetime but also during disaster and other emergencies.

The demonstration test targeted Kitaizumi Swimming Beach, known as a surfing mecca, in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, as the shipment destination, and the drone succeeded in delivering a hot drink to a surfer on the beach.


[Photo 1: Drone for the demonstration test]


[Photo 2: Flying drone]


[Photo 3: Drone delivering a hot drink to a surfer]


[Figure: Drone’s air freight shipment course]

Release date

January 12, 2017

Division in Charge

Robotics Policy Office, Industrial Machinery Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau

Related website

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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