Sony’s Airpeak S1 drone has just been officially launched. This promises to be a better aerial tool than DJI for professional filmmakers.
Sony has been teasing its first drone, Airpeak, since the project was first announced in November 2020, but is now publishing the full specifications and pricing of its Alpha-friendly flying machine.
According to Sony, the Airpeak S1 will be a three-part movie production system consisting of a drone, an Airpeak Flight app (strangely iOS only), and an Airpeak Plus cloud service. Of course, the drone itself is the most interesting of these, and the Airpeak S1 has some very impressive specs.
According to Sony, the Airpeak S1 can reach speeds from 0 to 50 mph in just 3.5 seconds. This is the fastest drone other than DJI’s small DJI FPV, which is 1.5 seconds faster than the equivalent acceleration of the DJI Inspire 2.
This falcon-like agility is underpinned by a top speed of 56 mph. This isn’t exactly the case for drone racing areas, but it’s pretty creepy for a drone that weighs 2.53 kg (including the camera). Due to the weight of the Airpeak and the four propellers, it seems to be stable in winds up to 44.7mph, which is about twice the resistance of the DJI Inspire 2.
Beyond these specifications, Sony hopes that the main sale of the Airpeak S1 will be close compatibility with full-frame alpha cameras like the Sony A7S III and Sony A1. These cameras and the impressive range of G-master lenses over a wide focal length promise to produce stunning aerial footage when the Airpeak S1 flies as well as its specifications.
Previously, it was possible to use Sony cameras with other drones using DJI and other third-party gimbals, but thanks to features such as the new Airpeak Flight app, the integration with Airpeak is now possible. I promise to be much more sophisticated.
Space Control Center
Oddly enough, this app is currently iOS only and there are no plans for an Android version so far. This seems strange considering that Sony Xperia phones run on Google’s OS. However, Airpeak’s flyer is likely to use a tablet such as an iPad as a viewfinder, where iOS-only compatibility makes more sense.
The Airpeak Flight app and controller give you individual control over all aspects of your system, including drones, cameras, and gimbals. Another tip for Airpeak’s professional filmmaking is the dual control mode, which allows you to control the aircraft and gimbal independently.
Only a short piece of Sony Airpeak in flight has been identified, so it’s still unclear if it will rival the stability and performance of DJI’s rivals in the real world. However, Sony is fairly convinced that the combination of the Airpeak S1’s five stereo cameras, two infrared sensors, and Sony’s vision sensing processor will provide the alpha camera with a solid aerial platform.
This combination of in-house processing and sensing capabilities enables the Airpeak S1 to maintain stable flight in remote areas without the critical GNSS satellite position data.
In fact, one of the only aspects of a non-Sony Airpeak system is the gimbal. The gimbal is instead provided by a third party company called Gremsy. This is a custom version of the 3-axis T3 gimbal with a convenient quick release system.
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The Airpeak S1 gimbal is not included in the final price. If you find the drone itself scary, check its MSRP. You can pre-order for $ 8,999 (approximately £ 6,350 / A $ 11,620) before launching in the fall of 2021 (that is, between September and December). Oops.
The price of the special custom Gremsy T3 gimbal is clearly the same as the existing version ($ 1,750, or about £ 1,235 / AU $ 2,260), and of course the cost of the camera must be taken into account. Obviously, this is a five-digit system for professional filmmakers and studios, but it’s still an exciting system.
The Airpeak S1 price tag is also relative in the history of aerial filmmaking. The kind of full-frame filming and photography it promises was only possible with a helicopter in less than a decade.
Helicopters can fly at higher altitudes and have no battery life issues, but the Airpeak S1 has a relatively limited flight time of 12 minutes with a camera and 22 minutes without a camera. Give filmmakers more creative flexibility.
Sony is now like a movie and television powerhouse, so there’s no doubt that Airpeak is behind some great shots in upcoming movies like Uncharted and Morbius.
What about Airpeak drones for hobby flyers? The fact that Sony has modeled the Airpeak S1 suggests that it could eventually become part of the range. But given Sony’s focus on photography on full-frame Alpha cameras, the Airpeak project is likely to remain high-end as well.
Drones such as the DJI Air 2S, Skydio 2, and the rumored DJI Mavic 3 Pro have already significantly solidified the consumer drone market, and Sony is competing in that area given the lack of tradition in areas such as gimbals. The margin may be too small for you. Still, I’m looking forward to the Airpeak S1 in action. We are also looking forward to where the system will fly next.
Sony Airpeak S1 drone officially launched and launches aerial combat with DJI
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