Japan MSDF begins trial of surveillance drone

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force has begun trials of a large surveillance drone to determine if it can replace manned patrol aircraft.

The unmanned, remotely controlled SeaGuardian is on lease from a US defense firm.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force plans to fly it for roughly 2,000 hours through September next year from Hachinohe Air Base in the northern prefecture of Aomori.

The MSDF will test the drone on patrol and surveillance missions now being carried out by manned planes.

The country's coast guard has already been operating the SeaGuardian at Hachinohe Air Base since last year.

Japan's Defense Ministry has been promoting the use of drones for patrols, surveillance, information gathering and other missions.

Last December, a unit that operates the large-size unmanned reconnaissance aircraft Global Hawk was set up at the Air Self-Defense Force's Misawa Air Base in the prefecture.