Sony eyes enterprise drone biz as next big little thing

A million and a half into Aerosense J/V with ZMP

Sony drone

Sony has found a bottle of Jeff Bezos' Kool-Aid lying around, drunk it, and signed a deal with Japanese UAV outfit ZMP.

To be fair, the new venture isn't predicated on delivering books by drone. Rather, Sony wants to get some of its key technologies airborne.

Under the joint venture, Sony will contribute “camera, sensing, telecommunications network, and robotics technologies”, while ZMP brings to the table “automated driving and robotics”, and reach into industrial markets.

The enterprise markets the two companies have in mind are surveying, observation, measurement and inspection applications.

It's only a small venture at the outset, with Aerosense to have a startup capital of 100 million yen (around US$800,000) and the same amount as a capital reserve. Sony will hold 50.005 per cent of the company, and ZMP 49.995 per cent.

Aerosense aims to start doing business in 2016, offering services using drones but not building its own drones: Sony has its own drone platform in mind.

Sony's mobile business has had an unhappy ride in a world where the top end is dominated by Apple and Samsung and Chinese brands own the low-end business. Earlier this month, the company announced that mobiles lost more than $1.6 billion, but president Hiroki Totoki promised that the company would “never sell or exit” from the mobile business.

That puts a premium on developing new markets for Sony Mobile, and in the Aerosense announcement, the company unsurprisingly picks out the Internet of Things as a target.

“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,” the statement says. ®

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