Achievements/case studies

Hidakagawa Town

Background and Issues facing Hidakagawa Town

Hidakagawa Town, with a population of approximately 9,200, is located in the central part of Wakayama Prefecture and is a lush green region with approximately 90% forested land. The town is attractive for its clear Hidakagawa River, seasonal customs, and high quality agricultural products. On the other hand, the declining and aging population is posing a serious challenge in terms of transportation and lack of young and middle-aged people.

Logistics and depopulation issues in mountainous areas are expected to become even more serious in the future, as evidenced by the fact that newspaper delivery in the Miyama area was discontinued an only offered by post in September 2022, as well as the need for shopping assistance for elderly people who have surrendered their driver’s licenses. It is also necessary to develop a means of providing information in the event of a disaster and a system for the prompt provision of emergency relief supplies.

Therefore, the private sector and the government are working together to resolve logistics issues with the aim of creating a balanced town where people can receive the same services no matter where they live in the town.

Introduction of new smart logistics SkyHub®

Hidakagawa Town, Seino HD, Aeronext, and Aeronext subsidiary NEXT DELIVERY, as part of the “New Smart Logistics Implementation Project Using Drones,” a part of the FY2023 Digital Rural City National Concept Promotion Grant (Digital Implementation Type 1), on July 6, 2012, established a Drone Depot®*3 in Kawarago, Hidakagawa Town to serve as a base for the New Smart Logistics*1 SkyHub®*2 and started services in the Miyama and Nakatsu districts. On the same day, as an unveiling flight, a drone delivered “dried ayu fish” (a specialty of Hidakagawa Town), vegetables, binchotan (binchotan charcoal), and other items for the daily shopping needs of local residents.

In August 2023, Aeronext, together with Seino Holdings Co., Ltd. and Uhuru Inc. signed a agreement with the town of Hidakagawa for the DX of living through the new smart logistics, and is further pursuing activities for the societal implementation of new smart logistics SkyHub®.

Drone Depot®

Warehouses and bases for the accumulation and delivery of goods at the connection points between existing land-based logistics and drone logistics, with a setup that enables drone delivery of goods.

→Located in Kawarakawa, Hidakagawa-cho.

Drone Stand®

Facilities or locations for drone takeoffs and landings located at the origin and terminus of drone logistics.

→Currently, 10 locations have been established. (As of March 2024)

Services Implemented

The following services have been implemented in the town of Hidakagawa:

Shopping service in collaboration with local stores: SkyHub® Delivery

A shopping and delivery service in which products from local stores and supermarkets purchased via the SkyHub® application are delivered to individual homes on the desired date and time. This service is also an initiative to support the DX activities of local stores, and is an online supermarket service.

In the Miyama and Nakatsu areas, customers can choose from approximately 100 food and daily necessities items from local supermarkets in the neighborhood and select the desired time to order. We also have partnerships with city supermarkets and home centers, and can deliver items not available at local supermarkets.The fee is 300 yen (including tax) or 500 yen (including tax) for delivery plus a service charge (10% of the total product price). Currently, orders placed by 11:00 a.m. will be delivered on the same day.

Food delivery service: SkyHub®Eats

Food from 12 partner restaurants in the Miyama, Nakatsu, and Kawabe Gobo areas will be delivered by drone or car delivery service. The fee is 300 yen (including tax) or 500 yen (including tax) for delivery.

Newspaper Delivery Service

In Hidakagawa Town, the population is aging. Shopping support for elderly who have surrendered their driver’s licenses and other security issues related to residents’ lives have become major community issues due to the shortage of labor. In addition, the 2024 problem in the logistics industry will have a major impact on depopulated areas, meaning such things as limited delivery times.

In the Miyama area, newspapers have been delivered by post (for a fee) since September 2022 due to a shortage of newspaper delivery staff caused by depopulation, with morning editions arriving around noon, and Saturday and Sunday editions being mailed together on Monday. To solve this problem, we started a newspaper delivery service in the Miyama area in February 2024. Specifically, we are working with three newspaper distributors to operate a system whereby we carry newspapers from the city center on their behalf and residents can pick them up in the morning at designated boxes.

Drone Delivery

The project is being implemented with the aim of improving delivery efficiency by replacing land delivery to areas and locations that are inefficient for land transportation with drone delivery.

・10 drone flight routes have been opened by the end of March 2024.

Hidakagawa Town is located in the center of Wakayama Prefecture and became the third largest town in the prefecture in terms of area, stretching long from east to west, following a merger of municipalities on May 1, 2005. About 90% of the total area is forested, and the population of 9,219 (according to the 2020 census) is relatively large on the west side near the sea, while the Miyama district on the east side has a high concentration of elderly people, 52.5% (according to the 2020 census), and the population continues to decline.

 In addition, logistics and depopulation issues in mountainous areas are expected to become more serious in the future, as evidenced by the fact that newspaper delivery in the Miyama area was discontinued by mail in September 2022, and the lack of shopping assistance for the elderly who have surrendered their driver’s license, etc. To create a balanced town where people can receive the same services no matter where they live in the town, efforts to solve logistics problems are needed.

 Against this backdrop, in FY2023, we launched a project to secure stable logistics and improve the living environment in mountainous areas through the “New Smart Logistics Implementation Project Using Drones,” utilizing the government’s Digital Rural City National Concept Promotion Grant. The opening ceremony of Sky Hub Hidakagawa was held on July 6, 2023. Currently, we offer shopping service (in partnership with 5 stores) and food delivery service (in partnership with 12 stores), and local residents have commented that the service has become more convenient and that they hope it will continue in the future.

 We will continue to discuss joint delivery initiatives with logistics companies, and also develop a watchdog service that combines communication with residents and delivery, aiming to ensure convenience in depopulated areas and create an environment where local residents can live with peace of mind.

Yusaku Ihara, Assistant Manager, Planning Policy Division, Hidakagawa Town, Wakayama Prefecture