Electronics giant Sony has reported the exciting news that it is officially jumping into the drone business. It has partnered with Tokyo-based robotics firm ZMP to create a company called Aerosense. This joint venture will create and develop drone technology that will begin offering services to users starting in 2016. In this relatively small venture for Sony, Aerosense will have a startup capital of about $800,000 and as part of the deal, ZMP will hold 49.995% of the company and Sony will hold 50.005%.
Drones have quickly become a prominent research area for several Internet and technology companies. For example, Amazon and Google are researching the use of drones to conduct package delivery. The drones Aerosense seeks to develop will have surveying, measurement, inspection and observation capabilities. Drones could be launched in applications such as gathering imagery before the construction of buildings and surveying remote mountain locations. They could also be deployed to inspect farmland to survey damage after a storm. In fact, the earthquake and tsunami that essentially destroyed one of Japan’s nuclear power plants four years ago have inspired researchers to develop survey drones for hazardous sites. As far as commercially, drones could be deployed in shopping malls and other facilities in order to photograph and follow “intruders.”
Imagery and data gathered by Aerosense’s drones will be processed by cloud-based servers. The winged vertical takeoff and landing craft pictured in ZMP’s press release is only one of multiple possible drone designs Aerosense will consider. As of now, the plan is that Aerosense will operate in Japan with no plans for overseas expansion.
The Aerosense project was pushed by Sony Mobile Communications Chief Executive Officer Hiroki Totoki, who took control last fall in an attempt to revive Sony’s Xperia’s smartphones. Sony’s phones are not faring well in light of the dominance of Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. However, Sony Mobile aims to combine its expertise in mobile device cameras (used in iPhones) and network technology with ZMP’s experience with autonomous control technology.
As the use of drones becomes much more prevalent throughout the world, it will be exciting to see how Sony’s contributions affect the industry.