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Japan's first mass-produced drone takes maiden flight

Staff writer |
Japan's first mass-produced drone underwent a test flight assisting cleanup crews near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

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The drones will be manufactured just north of the stricken Fukushima plant and some of them will be used to record radiation levels during cleanup and decontamination work. The drone was developed by the Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory, which is headed by Kenzo Nonami, a robotics professor at Chiba University.

The production base for the drones is a factory in Minami-Soma owned by Kikuchi Seisakusho Co. of Hachioji, Tokyo. The company is a major manufacturer of precision parts.

The plan calls for producing 400 drones this year. Each drone will be 90 centimeters in diameter, weigh 3 kilograms and be capable of carrying a load of up to 6 kg. The drones will navigate via a global positioning system and will be able to fly continuously for about 30 minutes. Each drone will cost between 2 million and 3 million yen ($16,800 and $25,200).

There are currently an estimated 2,000 drones flying in Japan, but most are foreign-made robotics that cost about 100,000 yen. Most of the foreign-made drones are flown by drone enthusiasts as a hobby and lack the durability to be put to practical uses.

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