Sony plans to enter the drone business in October
Image credit: Sony official website
The head of Sony’s robotics division has a dream. “I would like to develop humanoid robots,” said Izumi Kavanishi, who is executive vice president of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, in an interview with Handelsblatt. But for now, he follows a different plan: Sony plans to enter the drone business in October. The concern started its attack from a familiar terrain – photographers and videographers, as well as film studios. Sony is already one of the largest manufacturers of photo and video cameras in Hollywood.
The brand is called Airpeak with which the group now wants to conquer the Earth’s airspace. The Japanese are not targeting the thriving consumer market, which is almost 80 percent dominated by DJI from China. Instead, Sony is focusing on upcoming growth segments in the professional sector with more expensive drones. The group’s launch drone costs about nd can transport high-quality and heavy camera systems. Sony plans to enter the drone business in October. Drones are also planned for geodesy and monitoring, as well as for maintenance of social infrastructure, Kavanishi explains. Initial negotiations with companies in Japan and the United States have already begun. “But in the end, we also want to enter the supply drone logistics market,” says Sony’s robotics expert. “This is likely to be the largest market in the medium to long term.”
Kavanishi is not the only one who values the market in this way. Market analyst Markets And Markets predicts in a study that the market for logistics and transport drones will increase from 11 billion to 29 billion dollars between 2022 and 2027.
Competition from Airbus and Amazon
The competition for this segment has already intensified. Experts from the market research company Modor Intelligence estimate that about $ 2 billion has already been invested in startups or drone divisions in recent years. That’s why Sony has to face well-known competition. In addition to many start-ups in the field, there are also active giants such as the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the global online retailer Amazon. DJI is also unhappy with the mass market for cheap video drones and has plans for higher-end devices. Even in Japan, financially strong competitors are trying to enter the sector. Technology companies such as NEC, rival Amazon Rakuten and technology investor SoftBank’s local mobile network are developing transport drones.
But Sony relies on two factors in the competition: Japan’s national strategy for drones and flying cars, as well as its own technological skills in artificial intelligence (AI), sensor technology, robotics, and the integration of precision mechanics, electronics, and software. It is unlikely that in another country the rules for the drone market are as well developed as in Japan, as the government wants to guarantee its companies an early start in the global segment of drone services. A market is already emerging in the construction industry. The Japanese construction machinery manufacturer Komatsu is using drones to reduce the time for measuring construction sites from days to hours. In 2022, the government will probably be one of the first in the world to allow semi-autonomous flights without connectivity, which gives direct visibility, over more densely populated areas. ANA will then launch its first commercial delivery service in rural areas with drones of the German startup Wingcopter. Sony also wants to take advantage of the market. Here it has focused on the middle price segment.
Sony wants to further develop its robotics division
“In principle, developing a drone is a constant battle with physics, gravity, temperature, weather, safety and range,” Kavanishi said. Entering the consumer market with cheap drones is very difficult. According to the expert, drones should be “very competitive” in terms of price. According to him, it is enough to use commercially available components on the mass market. Sony can’t stand it. “But for drones in the upper price range, it would be an advantage if you could adjust the parts in such a way as to create a drone with better performance and higher energy efficiency, while keeping costs under control,” says Cavanishi. In the case of Sony, the fact is added that the group itself has important key technologies through its cameras and, above all, the robotics division. Sony intends to use its technology in sensor technology, artificial intelligence and robotics to open new business areas, Kavanishi said.
The Aibo robot dog is one example, Sony’s Vision-S autonomous car prototype is another. For Kavanishi, the unifying element for the three products is autonomous mobility technology, whether walking, driving or flying. “The basic technologies in all products are the same,” says the manager. “I believe these areas are important business areas for Sony’s future.”