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Sony’s First Drone Takes to the Sky - Commercial Drone Service Planned for 2016

Posted by Clayton Luz on Oct 13, 2015 3:09:00 AM

A prototype of Sony Corporation’s first drone parted the skies last month. Reportedly reaching speeds twice as fast as any other commercial drone, the automated drone was created by Aerosense, a joint venture between the tech behemoth and ZMP, a Japanese robotics company.

The drone, designed for enterprise and business, launches Aerosense’s intent to offer commercial drone services for the construction, logistics and agricultural sectors in 2016, as Bloomberg reported last month.

Resembling a miniature plane, the AS-DTO1-E will take off and land vertically, and carry up to 22 pounds. Top speed is 106 miles per hour for more than two hours, reports the Wall Street Journal. The drone combines Sony's camera and sensor technologies with ZMP robotics creations.

The new company will offer services as such inspecting aged infrastructure and surveying land, operations that can pose safety challenges because of access difficulties. “By making it automated, drones will be considerably safer because many of accidents today are caused by human errors,” said Hisashi Taniguchi, chief executive of Aerospace and ZMP, said at a news conference.

Aerosense plans to target enterprise customers by leveraging its “camera, sensing, telecommunications network, and robotics technologies” to capture aerial imagery for transmission to the cloud. The company will pair drone hardware with aerial imaging and “cloud-based data processing” for companies looking for “comprehensive solutions that meet needs including measuring, surveying, observing, and inspecting.”

Sony plans on selling services that use the drones, but not the drones. Its venture with Aerosense into the budding drone market signals Sony is looking for other uses of its mobile phone and digital camera technologies other than in its Xperia smartphones. The smartphone has failed to sustain customer interest, leading to reduced income and profit for the company’s mobile division. “It’s difficult to expect growth in the smartphone business with smartphones alone, which is why we are looking at new opportunities such as this,” said Hiroki Totoki, CEO of Sony’s mobile business.

Aerosense’s sales are expected to total about 10 billion yen (over $83 million) by 2020, according to Kotaro Sabe, the firm’s chief technology officer.

Sony and ZMP have a history together. Last February, Sony announced it was getting in the self-driving automotive industry with an $842K investment with ZMP, which has expertise in automated driving technology and robotics.

The market for commercial drones continues to draw increasing interest from major Internet and tech companies. Amazon, Google, General Electric and Qualcomm are all developing drones designed for commercial applications. The market holds much potential, based on a report of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). According to the association, should the Federal Aviation Administration meets its 2015 deadline for integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national civilian airspace, the total domestic economic impact will reach more than $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2025, and create more than 100,000 high-paying jobs.

The commercial drone market is poised to fly, it seems.

Related BCC Research reports:

Drone Technology and Global Markets (IAS104A)

Radar Systems and Technology: Global Markets (IAS103A)

Global Markets and Technologies for Sensors (IAS006F)

The Internet of Things (IFT118A)

Topics: Instrumentation and Sensors