Sony to Swoop Into Drone Market for Business Customers

22 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Sony Is Launching A Drone Business To Provide Data Services To Enterprises.

Sony is getting into the drone business with winged machines that take off vertically and could be used in everything from agriculture to construction.

Sony will contribute its camera, sensor, and telecommunications technology which will be combined with ZMP’s automated driving and robotics know-how.Drones have fast become a tech-lover’s next must-have purchase and companies like DJI and Parrot have capitalised on their ever-increasing popularity, but investment from Sony’s mobile division suggests that it wants a piece of this pie. However interestingly enough it seems that Sony Mobile will be teaming up with a company called ZMP to create drones designed for the enterprise markets, whatever that entails.

In a statement, the companies said they would develop and launch “enterprise solutions using autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles for image capture combined with cloud-based data processing”. The company has already invested nearly $850,000 into Japanese autonomy startup ZMP, whose tagline is to ‘make a robot of everything’ and whose past projects include ‘automated driving technologies’ a.k.a. self-driving cars, similarly to those in the works by other tech giants like Apple and Google. Prior to this, Sony had already invested in ZMP, which at that time it was assumed that Sony was interested in their self-driving car technology, so the decision to go with drones is an interesting one. Aerosense drones could be deployed in applications such as surveying remote mountain areas or gathering imagery before the construction of a high-rise building. The joint venture, dubbed ‘Aerosense’, gives Sony the larger share, but only by a whisker (0.05 per cent to be precise) and things are expected to kick off early next month.

ZMP, which has develop self-driving technologies for land-based vehicles, will take a (slightly) minor stake (49.995 percent) in the business, leaving Sony — which is providing camera tech, sensors, telecommunications, and robotics — as the majority owner. Few details about the winged drone concept illustration, attached to a ZMP press release, were available but more information is expected at an Aerosense event next month. If Sony’s camera sensors are good enough for Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Apple’s latest iPhones, you can bet these Aerosense drones are going to have some of the best optics around. The Aerosense initiative was pushed by Sony Mobile Communications CEO Hiroki Totoki, who took charge last November in an attempt to spur interest in Sony’s Xperia smartphones and revive the struggling business. Sony Mobile wants to combine its expertise in network technology and mobile device cameras, which are used in iPhones, with ZMP’s know-how in autonomous control technology.

DJI, the multi-billion dollar Chinese company best known for its range of consumer drones, recently opened its platform to third-parties to bring benefits to businesses. Andy Pan, the VP who runs DJI’s platform, is particularly bullish about the opportunities that lie ahead. “We previously said the sky’s the limit, but now we believe that the sky is no longer the limit,” Pan told me on stage at our recent event in Shanghai. However, the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant four years ago have spurred researchers to develop survey drones for hazardous sites.

Meanwhile, commercial services such as drones that can photograph and follow intruders at shopping malls and other large facilities are being developed.

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