Sony reveals new details about its first drone, the Airpeak, including blistering speed and high price
posted Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at 9:00 PM EDT
Sony announced its first drone, the Airpeak, at CES 2021. Since then, details have been sparse. While we still don't know everything, Sony has today announced additional information about its drone, including some key specifications, features and price. Further, Sony has given the Airpeak its official name, the Sony Airpeak S1. Per Sony, the Airpeak S1 is the world's smallest drone that can be equipped with a full-size mirrorless interchangeable-lens Alpha camera.
The Sony Airpeak S1 is born from a long history of robotics, AI and imaging at Sony. The Japanese giant has been working in these fields for decades, and Airpeak is a culmination and combination of this rich history. A drone seems like the natural next step for Sony. The Airpeak S1 is designed to elevate and enhance the creativity of photographers and videographers alike.
'Sony is excited to launch our new drone business with the Airpeak S1,' said Yang Cheng, Vice President, Imaging Solutions, Sony Electronics Inc. 'Combining an extremely compact size with some of Sony’s most advanced imaging, sensing, AI and robotics technologies, the S1 will allow content creators, storytellers and commercial professionals to capture that which they’ve never been able to capture before.'
The Airpeak S1 is part of an overall Airpeak system, which comprises the aircraft (the Airpeak S1), a remote controller and app (iOS only, for now), Airpeak Plus cloud service, and an Airpeak Base web application. The primary piece of the system, the drone itself, includes the aircraft, a gimbal, a camera, lens and additional accessories. While we'll discuss the price later, it's worth pointing out that the Airpeak S1 will not ship with the gimbal or a camera. Those must be purchased separately.
Speaking of cameras, the Airpeak S1 is designed to work seamlessly with the Sony Alpha ecosystem. The Airpeak S1 can carry five pounds of payload, which means it can carry Sony's full-frame Alpha cameras and many of its lenses, including various G Master lenses, like the new 14mm f/1.8 GM lens. (In case you missed it, we recently Field Tested the new ultra-wide GM lens) The gimbal is designed to work with lenses from 14-85mm in focal length. In terms of specific cameras, Sony cited that the Airpeak S1 works with the A1, A9 II, A7S III, A7R IV and FX3, although there's no reason to suspect it won't work with the A7 series or older models.
So just how fast is the Airpeak S1? Sony is proud of the drone's capabilities, and they are certainly promising. The Airpeak S1 can go from 0 to 50mph in 3.5 seconds and has a max speed (without payload) of 55.9mph (25 meters per second). It has a maximum pitch angle of 55 degrees. Perhaps most impressively is the drone's wind resistance, which is shown off in the video below. The drone can withstand 44.7mph (20 m/s) winds. Sony claims that the Airpeak S1 has the best acceleration, speed and wind resistance in the industry. This performance isn't available for too long. However, flight time is rated for up to 22 minutes.
The Airpeak S1's flight performance is underpinned by a newly developed propulsion system with an engine and rotors designed in-house. The drone includes five stereo cameras (10 in total) plus a pair of IR range sensors to ensure stability and safety. The stability system works with Sony's Vision Sensing Processor, which is another case where Sony is leveraging its rich history of imaging technology and AI.
The Airpeak S1 can be controlled using a dedicated remote controller or iOS app. A single controller can control the drone, or two people can coordinate, with one person controlling the drone and the other person controlling the gimbal and camera. The web app, Airpeak Base, offers an in-depth flight planning editor, fleet manager and logbook viewer. There's a lot that can be edited and automated ahead of time using Airpeak Base. Flight data is also logged here.
While we don't have full details on the gimbal designed for the Airpeak S1, namely its price, we know that it's a joint effort between Sony and Gremsy. The gimbal will be a custom-designed Gremsy T3. It's an expensive gimbal, around $1,750, so it's safe to assume that the one designed specifically for the Airpeak S1 won't be cheap. As mentioned earlier, it is not included with the Airpeak S1.
So, the Airpeak S1 promises impressive performance and a payload suitable for Sony's best cameras. The Japan-built drone will ship with a remote control, an additional set of four propellers, two batteries and a battery charger. The Airpeak S1 will cost $9,000 when it launches this fall.