Photo/Illutration A drone flies over a riverside space in Tokyo’s Kita Ward traditionally reserved for BBQ parties during a ceremony to mark the opening of the area on Dec. 16, 2021. (Provided by the ward government)

A spacious riverside spot in Tokyo’s Kita Ward traditionally set aside for barbecue parties is temporarily being taken over as a practice zone for drone operators as part of a social experiment to explore new ways of using the space.

Local authorities working with the transport ministry jointly set up a drone flying practice area along the banks of the Arakawa river in the ward’s Iwabuchi district in response to growing demand for space to fly the unmanned aircraft and to tap into a potential new tourism resource.

Under the revised aviation law that took effect last September, drone operators no longer need to seek permission to fly over densely populated areas if they meet certain conditions, such as tethering the craft with cord.

There is growing demand for spaces to practice operating drones in light of their use across many industries, one of which is to conduct aerial inspections of construction sites, according to the ministry.

In response, the ward and the ministry reserved three sections, each spanning 1,100 to 1,500 square meters, at a riverside area that is normally reserved for barbecue parties.

The new drone flying area is the largest among Tokyo’s 23 wards and the first to be set up outdoors by a public institution in the 23 wards, an official said.

“I hope it will help make up for a shortage of flying spaces in the central Tokyo area and create new ways to use drones,” said Katsuhiro Tsuji, vice head of the transport ministry’s office for the lower reaches of the Arakawa river.

The drone flying practice area will be open until Feb. 26. Flying times are restricted to three hours each in the morning and the afternoon from Thursdays through Saturdays. Operators must pay 7,000 yen ($61) to use one of the three spaces after making a reservation on a dedicated website.