Photo/IllutrationRakuten Inc.'s drone used in the delivery of fried foods in the Odaka district of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture (Kentaro Uechi)

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--An experimental project using a drone to deliver fried foods has started in this city affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The joint project by Internet company Rakuten Inc. and convenience store operator Lawson Inc. is aimed at spurring the return of elderly evacuees to Minami-Soma by making shopping for daily necessities easier in the area.

The endeavor kicked off in late October in Minami-Soma’s Odaka district.

The evacuation order for residents of Odaka, which fell within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was lifted in July last year.

Under the joint project, a Lawson-owned moving stall loaded with about 300 types of products travels through the district twice a week.

Once a week, it accepts orders for fried chicken or other fried foods from customers. Carrying such high-temperature items on a traveling vehicle is prohibited without a special permit.

Upon receiving the order, the vehicle operator contacts the Lawson store to have the food prepared and delivered to the vehicle by a dedicated drone, which is owned and operated by Rakuten.

Lawson and Rakuten will consider whether to continue the project after the six-month experimental period, depending on demand for such services.