Man arrested for landing nuclear protest drone on residence of Japan’s Prime Minister

Fukui man arrested for landing drone on Abe’s office says he was protesting nuclear policy

Yasuo Yamamoto in custody. Photo © Noboru Tomura,

Yasuo Yamamoto in custody. Photo © Noboru Tomura,

from The Japan Times
APR 25, 2015

A man was arrested Saturday in Fukui Prefecture for allegedly flying the drone found earlier this week on the roof of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence, investigators said.
Yasuo Yamamoto, 40, of the city of Obama, presented himself to the Fukui Prefectural Police on Friday evening and said he landed the drone on the rooftop of the prime minister’s office to protest the government’s nuclear energy policy.

Yamamoto had sand with him and what appeared to be the controller for a drone, sources said. He was quoted as saying he had put sand from Fukushima Prefecture, home to the meltdown-ridden No. 1 nuclear plant, into a plastic bottle that was attached to the unmanned aircraft.

Tokyo police confirmed Friday that the bottle contained sand and were trying to determine whether it came from Fukushima, sources said.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, Yamamoto said he flew the drone toward the prime minister’s office at 3:30 a.m. on April 9, nearly two weeks before it was discovered Wednesday. Police were speculating that the device had landed more recently.

Yamamoto told investigators he carried out the stunt by himself, and police searched his home in Obama on Saturday. He is being held on charges of forcible obstruction of official business.

Meanwhile, a blog entry apparently posted by Yamamoto on April 12 says he left his hometown on April 7 and arrived in Tokyo’s Akasaka district, near the prime minister’s office and the Diet building, early the following day with the intention of launching the drone.

However, the posting said bad weather forced him to give up that day, so he returned to the area on April 9 and flew the drone out of a parking lot.

The drone, bearing a radiation sticker and carrying a radioactive payload, was found on the roof of the prime minister’s office at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. According to the police, the drone was equipped with a camera, what appeared to be two flares, and a brown container of a liquid that later turned out to have a small amount of cesium in it.

Aerial footage of the roof of the prime minister’s office taken on April 15 shows a black object matching the color of the drone.

Fukui Prefecture is the nation’s nuclear heartland, hosting over a dozen nuclear reactors on the Sea of Japan coast. Last week, the Fukui District Court endorsed a citizens’ bid to halt Kansai Electric Power Co.’s effort to restart two idle reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant. The government says it has no plan to push for restarts, but the utility is appealing the injunction, granted on safety grounds.

The drone was also equipped with a global positioning system that provides information about its flight path, sources said. A digital camera on the drone, believed to be a Phantom 2 sold by Chinese manufacturer DJI, was connected to a transmitter that can send recorded footage to a remote monitor. The Phantom is only sold in white, but the one found on the rooftop had been painted black.

On Friday, police and ministry officials held their first meeting at the prime minister’s office on drone regulation and began exploring legislation to regulate flights above sensitive facilities. Plans under consideration include obliging drone buyers to register their name and address.

“We need to immediately establish” legislation on drone usage, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at the meeting, which included officials from the ministries that oversee transportation, internal affairs, and trade and industry.

The government is also expected to weigh the introduction of a licensing system, maintenance rules and mandatory insurance, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

Suga described the incident as “a grave issue in terms of crisis management.” He said drones “could have a substantial impact on public safety and privacy protection, depending on how they are used.”

Toshihiro Nikai, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council, said Friday that lawmakers need to submit a bill to prohibit drones from being flown above important facilities.

Suga said the previous day that the government will consider legislation to regulate drone flights before the Diet’s summer recess from late June.



‘Antinuclear activist’ says drone stunt was simply to attract attention

May 16, 2015

A self-professed antinuclear activist indicted May 15 for landing a drone on the roof of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office in Tokyo last month told investigators his action was intended to draw attention, but not on the scale of a terrorist attack.

“I thought I could gain public attention if I used a drone,” Yasuo Yamamoto is said to have told investigators. “I chose a method that was more apparent than a demonstration, but not as shocking as a terrorist attack.”

Yamamoto, who is 40 and unemployed, added: “Drones are a hot topic and anything done with them leaves an impact. I thought of using it after I saw videos of pizza deliveries made using similar devices.”

Yamamoto, from Obama, Fukui Prefecture, was charged by Tokyo prosecutors with forcible obstruction of business at the prime minister’s office in Chiyoda Ward by landing the drone on its roof April 9.

It is not illegal under the Aviation Law to operate a drone at an altitude of under 250 meters, although that is set to change.

According to Tokyo prosecutors, Yamamoto operated the drone, which was carrying soil containing radioactive materials and a flare, from a parking lot in the capital’s Minato Ward around 3:40 a.m.

It landed on the roof of the prime minister’s office, but was not discovered until April 22. Prosecutors determined that Yamamoto’s actions had interfered with the duties of staff members at the office.

Yamamoto said, “I flew the drone to express my opposition to nuclear power,” when he turned himself in to police in Obama on April 24. But when he was later asked how he became opposed to nuclear power, he replied, “I don’t remember,” according to sources.

Yamamoto left his company last July and visited Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, he told investigators.

“I began taking stock of my life after I visited nuclear power plants across the country. I was also growing weary of my age,” he said.