Sony to Offer Commercial Drone Services Starting 2016

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Sony Mobile Communications Inc. Holds News Conference On Drone Venture

The AS-MC01-P multicopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), developed by Aerosense Inc., a joint venture between Sony Mobile Communications Inc. and ZMP Inc.

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Sony Corp. plans to offer commercial drone services targeting the construction, logistics and agriculture industries from the first half of next year.

The company’s Aerosense Inc. venture is making automated drones to capture high-definition images and transmit them to the cloud for analysis, Sony told reporters Monday in Tokyo. The jointly owned company with robotics firm ZMP Inc. expects sales to total about 10 billion yen by 2020, said Kotaro Sabe, Aerosense chief technology officer.

Sony, whose Xperia smartphones have failed to gain market share, is looking to find another use for its mobile phone and digital camera technologies in the nascent drone market. The unmanned aircraft industry may be worth $82 billion by 2025 in the U.S. alone, and has already attracted investments from Google Inc., General Electric Co. and Qualcomm Inc. despite privacy and safety concerns.

“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, head of Sony’s mobile business.

Drones drew scrutiny in Japan when an anti-nuclear power protester used one to deliver a payload of radioactive material to the roof of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office in April. The incident prompted the government to consider strengthening regulation of unmanned aircraft.

For more, read this QuickTake: Drones

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