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Can Sony's drones improve supply chain practices?

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:drone? supply chain? joint venture? cloud?

Sony is entering the drones market, which the Japanese OEM giant believes will become a hit to consumers as well as expand supply chain management practices. Since drones are still a growing industry, it is hard to tell whether or not these devices will have a lasting impact.

Sony recently announced that a working drone prototype developed by Aerosense, a joint venture between Sony and Tokyo-based start-up ZMP, is ready for commercial use. Sony expects the craft will generate sales for commercial applications of over $80 million by 2020.

"The applications of Sony's and other drones will be substantial, many of which we have not even thought of yet," Dan Kara, research director, Robotics, for ABI Research told EBN.

Sony's joint venture drone, which weighs 22lbs and is 515mm 515mm 400mm in size, takes offs and lands vertically. It has a flight autonomy of more than two hours and can reach a maximum speed of 106mph.

The craft can be programmed to fly a set course automatically or remote pilots can control the craft from an Internet-connected PC. Set flight paths can be programmed to fly at scheduled times while flight status is monitored and recorded in real time.

A key feature that the drone offers is a camera that uploads video and photo images to cloud storage servers. The video and images can be processed by backend data services that Sony offers.

Inventory management offers one potential supply chain use for Sony's drone. The drone's camera, for example, can generate three-dimensional topographic map data from multiple photos of storage and warehouse locations. With the data, it is possible to monitor and check inventory status visually over a period of time. Visual spot checks of inventory levels with the drone can thus eliminate the need for a human worker to physically access the locations.

Because of the size of Sony's drone, it is particularly well suited for outside use. "Inventory is something that has to be managed, even if you are talking about acres and acres of land," which represents one potential use of Sony's drone, Kara said.

Sony should also target a number of other applications to take advantage of a market that is expected to total $1.27 billion in sales for commercial drone applications by 2020, compared to sales of $15.22 million in 2014, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

Government applications including law enforcement, infrastructure monitoring, supply chain management, and research and development contributed to over 40 per cent of market revenues in 2014, according to MarketsandMarkets. In addition to Sony, other drone players include Airware, Parrot and 3D Robotics in the United States.

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