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Sony is at a crossroads.

The company’s smartphone line is losing market share due to aggressive iPhone adoption and shifts in price points. To help offset future losses in the crowded mobile space, the global brand is turning to commercial drones.

“It’s difficult to expect growth in the smartphone business with smartphones alone, which is why we are looking at new opportunities such as this,” said Hiroki Totoki, head of Sony’s mobile business.

With focus on reconnaissance missions, construction, logistics and agriculture, Sony plans to launch the new service by 2016.

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Turning Smartphones Into Enterprise Drones

Sony hopes to leverage resources from manufacturing smartphones, and make a quick entry into the sector. To help facilitate the transition, the company will rely on its Aerosense venture with ZMP, a Tokyo-based startup. The group specializes in high definition recording and autopilot technology using UAVs. Content is pushed to the cloud, where it can be saved for further analysis.

According to Kotaro Sabe, Aerosense chief technology officer, sales are expected to reach $82.6 million by 2020.

Drone-as-a-Service Business Model

Sony recently released a short clip of an early prototype in action. The machine is not designed like consumer UAVs. It holds the frame of a small jet but takes off like a helicopter. In the air, the unit can sustain two hours of nonstop flight under optimal outdoor conditions.

“By making it automated, drones will be considerably safer because many of accidents today are caused by human errors,” mentioned Hisashi Taniguchi, CEO of Aerospace and ZMP.

In addition to surveying and security surveillance, the prototype can carry 22-pound loads, which is ideal for transporting light equipment. Such capabilities would also allow the group to dive into commercial package deliveries. This may attract large e-commerce businesses that are interested in boosting order fulfillment and in-house operations.

With top speeds of 106 mph, it makes sense why the company isn’t releasing the drones to mainstream markets. By restricting the ability to purchase the units, businesses will be inclined to commit to the brand for the long term. This makes earnings far more consistent, compared to smartphone sales.

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Sony Mobile: Down But Not Out

Despite the current condition of its smartphone manufacturing division, Sony confirmed that it is not leaving the mobile industry. After terminating over 1,000 employees in the department, rumors engulfed the industry, as many took the move as a sign of defeat.

During an interview with Arabian Business, Totoki admitted that Sony Mobile is having a difficult time bouncing back from a series of unforeseen shifts in 2014. But instead of throwing in the towel, the company is working through a new strategy, which includes the release of IoT gadgets and 5G devices.

“Sony Mobile is proactively engaging in new business creation initiatives, with a particular focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) sector,” highlighted the tech brand in a blog post. “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.”

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