The announcement that Sony Mobile and ZMP will jointly create, in August 2015, a company named Aerosense, Inc, to develop and launch unmanned aerial vehicles, created some excitement in the market, but consumers should not expect to have their Sony drone and camera so soon.
According to information made available by the company, “Sony’s camera, sensing, telecommunications network, and robotics technologies will be leveraged alongside ZMP’s automated driving and robotics technologies together with their business experience in industrial fields. Aerosense Inc. will combine these assets and develop comprehensive solutions that meet needs including measuring, surveying, observing, and inspecting. It will aim to roll out these services for enterprise customers beginning in 2016.”
The business outline seems to be well defined, at least for a first stage: development, manufacture, and sale of enterprise solutions using autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles for image capture combined with cloud-based data processing. Aerial cinematography and photography are not mentioned as areas covered, but there is no doubt that the company wants to widen the number of clients for their camera and sensor technology through this partnership, so we may see the business move in these directions too.
While apparently not competing directly with names as DJI, Parrot or 3DR or GoPro, which have or will have their drones available, Aerosense may well become a reference in the enterprise market, and expand from there in other directions, even to the consumer segment. It should be remembered that Sony already has one action camera similar to Gopro, the Action Cam, and they want to expand that market… and probably make it rise above our heads. Even without offering solutions for the general public, the Aerosense drone and Action Cam pair may become a commercial option to explore, for example in action sports coverage.
Sony Mobile is proactively engaging in new business creation initiatives, with a particular focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) sector. This joint venture represents a part of this push into IoT, as Sony strives to provide its customers with additional value by developing and managing total package cloud solutions.
ZMP’s stated mission is “Robot of Everything: To create a safe, fun and comfortable lifestyle with robotics technology.” In line with this, ZMP has developed its automated driving technology and put it into use in various fields. To date these solutions have been limited to the ground; with this joint venture, ZMP will take to the skies and apply its expertise in an entirely different realm, as it aims to create new services that were not possible on land.
Creating Aerosense, Sony and ZMP expect to tap into a market that can be worth $4.8 billion dollars, worldwide by 2021. According to a report by Radiant Insights, “this is a sizable market growth with oil and gas mapping, utility line inspection, package delivery, and agricultural applications accounting for virtually all the unit sales. Drones can provide more information at less cost than a human inspection team can.“
The document mentions that “Commercial Drones markets promise to grow significantly because of the more economical visualization and navigation provided by systems. Visualization includes mapping from the air, inspection from the air, surveillance from the air, and package delivery from the air. The unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras are able to do things that cannot be done in any other way. This bodes well for market development.”
Sony has a long tradition in terms of Hollywood. Since FAA lifted the ban on the use of drones for Hollywood productions, at the end of 2014, new opportunities are growing in the area, so this may well be an area where Aerosense wants to find clients in the future. Only time will tell.