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Sony JV underscores bullish outlook for drone market

Posted: 28 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sony? drone? joint venture? Aerosense? ZMP?

Sony's recent drone joint venture emphasises the Japanese OEM's confidence that drones will become a blockbuster market. Nonetheless, while drones are forecast to significantly bring great promise commercially and eventually improve supply chain management practices, it is still too early to say what lasting impact drones will have.

Sony recently announced that a working drone prototype developed by Aerosense, a joint venture between Sony and Tokyo-based startup 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," said Dan Kara, research director, robotics, for ABI Research.

Sony's joint venture drone, which weighs 9.98kg and has a dimension of 515mm x 515mm x 400mm, takes off 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 remotely 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 3D 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 MarketsandMarkets.

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