KDDI Corp. said Monday it will deploy drones at 1,000 locations across Japan to use the flying devices, equipped with cameras and sensors, as part of efforts to respond quickly to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Through a partnership with U.S. drone company Skydio Inc., the Japanese telecom company aims to build a network of drones, enabling the devices to reach disaster-hit areas anywhere in Japan in about 10 minutes, to help find people stranded at disaster sites, inspect roads, bridges and other disaster-affected structures, KDDI said.

The two companies concluded a capital tie-up last week that will see KDDI invest about 10 billion yen ($64 million) in Skydio, which utilizes artificial intelligence technology.

KDDI said it plans to complete the deployment in the next three years. Drone locations may include Lawson Inc. convenience store outlets, with KDDI slated to acquire a 50 percent stake in the company.

“The drones will be useful in finding survivors during disasters, as they can fly in the dark and are equipped with temperature sensors,” Hiromichi Matsuda, KDDI managing executive officer, said at a press conference in Tokyo.

While the global drone market is still dominated by Chinese giant SZ DJI Technology Co., the U.S. drone venture is growing rapidly on the back of rising tensions between the United States and China over economic security, according to industry experts.

A drone flies in the dark during a demonstration at a KDDI Corp. press conference in Tokyo on May 13, 2024. (Kyodo)


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