Sony and ZMP Team Up to Offer Commercial Drone Services

In 2016, Aerosense, jointly owned by Sony and robotics firm ZMP, plans to launch a commercial drone service targeting construction, logistics and agriculture industries. A prototype of an airplane-shaped drone was unveiled this week. The drones, which will be capable of capturing HD images and transmitting them to the cloud, will rely in part on the mobile phone and digital camera technologies developed for Sony’s Xperia smartphones. Analysts believe the unmanned aircraft industry may be worth $82 billion in the U.S. by 2025.

“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 Sony mobile business head Hiroki Totoki, as quoted by Bloomberg. Aerosense chief technology officer Kotaro Sabe says the company expects sales of 10 billion yen (over $84 million) by 2020.

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“The partnership will incorporate Sony’s camera, sensing, telecommunications network and robotics technologies with ZMP’s automated driving and robotics technologies,” notes the press release announcing the formation of Aerosense Inc.

The drone, says Engadget, will weigh 22 pounds and fly continuously for two hours at a speed of 106 miles per hour. As shown in an Aerosense video, the drone will take off and land vertically like a helicopter.

Engadget, which quotes Sony as saying that its drones could be used for “measuring, surveying, observing and inspecting,” surmises that, “it will likely carry different types of instruments, depending on the task at hand.”

Drones, which have drawn investments from Google, General Electric and Qualcomm, have also drawn concerns regarding privacy and safety issues. In Japan, an anti-nuclear activist used a drone to deliver radioactive material to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office roof, causing the government to look into strengthening regulations.