The Hokkaido prefectural government has started a project to demonstrate the flying of drones in winter due to the fact that small drones are considered vulnerable in cold weather.
The prefectural government aims to improve their skills to use drones in snowy weather and freezing conditions, promote their use and compile guidelines through this project.
On February 8, a demonstration was held under the scenario that a man had been in an avalanche. The weather was minus 12 C and snowing at the Asahidake spa resort area in the town of Higashikawa, Hokkaido.
The challenges were the rapid depletion of the battery and the freezing of the propellers in the harsh subzero temperatures.
Before the test flights, participants checked that there were no other people around and that the camera and propellers on their drones were not covered with snow or dirt. They double-checked the safe flight procedures.
During the demonstration, a drone searched for the man from about 50 meters above the ground. The drone, equipped with a regular camera and a thermal camera, successfully found the person by detecting the man's body heat.
The location of the victim would be relayed from the drone to members of a mountain rescue unit of the Hokkaido prefectural police and others to initiate the search and rescue operation.
The preparation time for flying drones is shorter compared to helicopters and searches can be done at a lower altitude, leading to early detection of victims.
As deregulation continues regarding drone flight rules, the Hokkaido prefectural government hopes to use drones for logistics and infrastructure development. The prefectural government said they would conduct demonstrations in the towns of Kamishihoro and Tobetsu, on the assumption that drones could be used to deliver relief supplies when roads and other access lines are cut off and to inspect avalanche fences and dams.
Hiroshi Nakagawa, NTT Communications Corp., who is involved in the project said that they would like to continue demonstrations so that drones would be used in various sectors during the winter.