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Sony's Next Trick: Drones for the Enterprise

Sony partners with Japanese robotics company to build self-piloting drones.

by Emanuel Maiberg
Jul 22 2015, 4:27pm

Photo courtesy Sony/ZMP

Sony is a giant corporation that does a little bit of everything: music, movies, television, games, incredibly dorky augmented reality, and of course all the technology that makes these possible. As of today, the company is also getting into the booming drone business.

Sony Mobile Communications, the part of the company that develops smartphones and tablets, today announced that it's partnering with Japanese robotics company ZMP to found Aerosense, a new company that will build autonomous, unmanned aerial vehicles for image capture combined with cloud-based data processing.

It's a new, surprising venture for Sony, but the company has been going through a lot of big changes in the last couple of years. With PlayStation 4 outselling the Xbox One, it's game division is going strong, but last year it sold off its long-struggling PC brand VAIO and spun off its audio and video business into a separate, wholly owned subsidiary.

We most often hear about drones being used by the military or amateur photographers (who can sometimes get in the way), but Sony sees Aerosense as a push into the Internet of Things sector, and part of a total package of cloud solutions it can sell to big businesses.

"Aerosense Inc. will combine these assets and develop comprehensive solutions that meet needs including measuring, surveying, observing, and inspecting," Sony said in a statement. "It will aim to roll out these services for enterprise customers beginning in 2016."

The companies are investing 100 million yen (about $800,000) in Aerosense, split almost evenly, with Sony taking the majority stake (50.005 percent to be exact). Sony will provide the camera, sensing, telecommunications network, and robotics, while ZMP will provide its automated driving technology and business experience in industrial field.

Sony and ZMP are also currently collaborating on developing self-driving car technologies.