The transport ministry is considering relaxing its restrictions on drones as early as this month to allow for delivery of products to isolated and lightly populated areas.

Until now, drones have only been allowed to be flown within areas in which the aircraft were visible to either the pilot on the ground or an assistant.

However, under the proposed change, visible contact will not be required as long as the flight area is confined to an altitude under 150 meters and over areas where there is a low possibility of people roaming around, such as mountains, rivers and the ocean.

In addition, drones will be required to have technical capabilities to ensure safety.

For one thing, drones will have to be capable of landing in a safe location in the event of an unexpected mid-flight development.

Weather sensors and cameras will also be required either on the drone itself or along its flight path to allow it to make an emergency landing should the weather suddenly change.

Even in remote areas where the relaxation of restrictions will begin, certain measures will be required for the safety of those in the area.

One idea being considered is the establishment of a "droneport" surrounded by a fence to keep people away. The drones would be required to land in those ports, and users of the service would have to go to the port to pick up their deliveries.

Use of drones could prove more convenient for consumers living in isolated areas. Companies transporting products could also save money through the use of drones.

For those reasons, a number of companies have started trial runs with drones.

NTT Docomo Inc. has tested drones to the isolated island of Nokonoshima island off Fukuoka city.

The Internet shopping giant Rakuten has made experimental flights using drones in the mountainous areas of Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Toyota, Aichi Prefecture.

Japan Post Co. has also participated in an experiment organized by the transport ministry and other entities in Ina, Nagano Prefecture.

The relaxation of restrictions by the ministry is expected to spur such efforts at commercializing drone deliveries of products.

In the future, the hope is that technology and know-how developed in drone flights could be used to transport products to areas cut off from surrounding communities due to natural disasters, such as typhoons and torrential rain.

While the transport ministry is also considering ways of expanding drone delivery in urban areas, current technological levels are deemed still insufficient for the rapid spread of such services in heavily populated areas mainly because safety cannot be guaranteed.