[Publisher] ORIX Group | Reproduced from the shareholder notice “Alive,” No.59
The technology behind drones, machines that fly unmanned via remote operation or automated control, has progressed rapidly in recent years. They are now used in a variety of applications, including the delivery of goods to remote islands and mountainous regions, infrastructure inspections, and for checking the status of communities in disaster zones. In addition to helping to relieve worker shortage issues, drones are also expected to play an active role in accessing previously inaccessible high and narrow spaces as well as venturing into dangerous areas.
Drones can become heroes for society
We sat down with founder Kotaro Chiba to discuss the activities of DRONE FUND, which aims to achieve a “drone-enabled future society.” ORIX has been investing in Drone Fund 2 since May 2019.
DRONE FUND was established in 2017 with the aim of “building a drone-enabled future society and air mobility society.” Drone Fund 1 has raised 1.59 billion yen and Drone Fund 2 has raised 5.2 billion yen, having invested in over 40 companies both in Japan and around the world. Japan is currently grappling with various societal issues such as a shrinking population, low birth rate and aging society. This type of demographic is the perfect place for drones to become heroes without taking people’s jobs. The role of DRONE FUND is to invest in and thereby support startup enterprises that are tackling drone development in fields such as logistics, agriculture and infrastructural inspections.
The Civil Aeronautics Act currently dictates that drones must avoid airspace more than 150m above the ground, where aircraft fly, and above densely inhabited districts, and that they must be flown within range of sight. Drones must make effective use of vacant airspace below 150m above the ground in order to further promote their popularization. With this in mind, the Japanese government has set a goal for 2022 to realize flight outside of visual range in manned zones. The role of drones and the robotics industry in general is expanding also due to factors such as the spread of 5G and growing interest in fully automated and labor-saving operations. Through broadening the scope of the industry and with the co-operation of ORIX, DRONE FUND will contribute to the popularization of industrial drones to provide behind-the-scenes support to Japanese society.