A drone designed to measure radiation levels more accurately has been used for the first time around the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northern Japan, public broadcaster NHK said.

The remote-controlled drone took off from Namie, a city about six kilometers (3.7 miles) from the power plant, and measured radiation levels for about 30 minutes, providing real time data to scientists.

The unmanned aircraft can fly much lower than manned aircraft, which must stay at a minimum altitude of 300 meters (983 feet).

The drones can take a flight path that follows the terrain around the plant, allowing scientists to gather exact radiation figures, the aircraft's creators said.

The drone was developed by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency, or JAEA, and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

The team overseeing the project expects to conduct several more test flights and have the drones fully operational by 2015.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, killed more than 15,000 people, left over 3,000 others missing and damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. EFE