Photo/Illutration A drone hovers near the high-rise building in the capital's Shinjuku district that houses the Tokyo metropolitan government. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The transport ministry drastically relaxed its conditions for operating drones, opening up greater use of the devices for inspecting infrastructure equipment and buildings.

The enforcement ordinance for the Civil Aeronautics Law was revised on Sept. 24 to allow for greater use of drones in the industrial sector.

But the changes will not affect the current legal prohibition against flying drones near important government facilities, such as nuclear power plants and airports.

Drones can be flown to heights above 150 meters near tall structures, such as towers and chimneys, without receiving prior approval as long as the devices are kept flying within 30 meters of the structure.

Prior approval will also no longer be required for operating drones at night or in heavily populated areas as long as each craft is attached to rope not longer than 30 meters and a sign is clearly visible prohibiting unauthorized personnel from entering the area.