Japan eyes new air traffic control rule for introduction of drones

The government plans to devise a new air traffic control rule to prepare for the Self-Defense Forces' introduction of unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, government officials said Sunday.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will start studying similar rules in other countries next month to work out a new rule in fiscal 2014 from April, the officials said.

The current aviation law may be revised since it only applies to manned aircraft, they said.

The Defense Ministry plans to introduce drones to beef up its air surveillance capabilities to deal with territorial issues including a prolonged row with China over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The ministry is considering deploying Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft used by the U.S. military, possibly within fiscal 2015.

The Global Hawk can fly at an altitude of about 18,000 meters, roughly twice as high as commercial passenger aircraft, for more than 30 hours on autopilot.