It’s built to take Sony’s cameras into the sky
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Sony is now fully revealing its Airpeak S1 drone, which it teased at CES 2021 in January. The announcement contains a lot more detail on the drone’s capabilities, features, and reveals a $9,000 pricetag for the drone sans gimbal or camera, all of which cements the idea that this drone will be aimed squarely at the professional video market.
The Airpeak S1 is built to work with Sony’s mirrorless cameras, including the A7S Mark III, FX3, or even the 8K-capable Alpha 1. They’ll be attached to a special version of the Gremsy T3 gimbal that’s been designed specifically for the Airpeak and that you’ll have to buy separately. With a camera, the drone will have around 12 minutes of flight time (though it can achieve 22 minutes without any load). It’s also worth noting that the camera needs its own batteries — it isn’t being provided power by the drone.
Sony’s already released a preview of the types of shots you can pull off with the drone, which you can see below. You can also get a shot of the retracting landing gear in motion.
One of the drone’s biggest selling points is its stability and wind-resistance. According to Sony, it can stay stable in winds of up to 44.7 miles per hour (that’s 20m/s, double what DJI quotes for the Inspire 2), and it has five sets of stereo cameras that let the drone and an infrared rangefinder that should help the drone stop before it hits obstacles and stay steady even without satellite reception. Sony even enlisted JAXA, the Japanese space agency, to help it do some of the tests for the drone:
The Airpeak is also quick — it can do 0-50 (which is close to its top speed of 55.9 miles per hour) in 3.5 seconds. It is worth noting, though, that’s without any sort of attachments — Sony hasn’t said what kind of speed or acceleration can be achieved when the drone is flying a camera. That said, Sony showed me and other journalists a video of the drone doing figure-eights in the air, which it pulled off with impressive speed and agility.
For comparison, DJI’s Matrice 600 Pro, which costs around $7,000 without a gimbal or camera, has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and a quoted battery life of 32 minutes alone or 16 minutes with a 13-pound payload, using its stock batteries.
The Airpeak S1 can be operated with just the included controller, but Sony has an app called Airpeak Flight to help make things easier. The app is iOS/iPadOS-only for now, but it will allow for control of the camera and gimbal. The Airpeak can be operated by a single person, but also allows for dual-operator mode, where one person controls flight and the other controls the camera. Sony says the controller’s range is still being tested.
While you won’t get a camera or gimbal for the Airpeak S1’s $9,000 price, it does come with two pairs of propellers, the controller, two batteries, and a charger. Sony expects to ship it in the fall, and will be offering a service plan to cover damage that could occur from crashes.
In light of all the legislation and controversy around drones from China, Sony is making it clear that the Airpeak S1 is designed and made in Japan; it came up repeatedly in a press briefing and again in the press release.
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