Sony unveils burley Airpeak drone that looks to take on DJI Matrice 600

Sony has finally taken the wraps off of its new Airpeak drone. The name “Airpeak” refers to the company’s new line of drones, with today’s model intended for high-end photography and videography using the Alpha series of cameras.

We’d heard about this project before. In fact, Sony teased this in early November. But it’s been kept pretty much on the down-low until today. And what we’re seeing today looks pretty intriguing. The company made the announcement to coincide with the opening of CES 2021, the world’s largest consumer electronics show – albeit a virtual edition this year.

Let’s see what Sony revealed.

Sony’s new Airpeak drone: Built for creators

The word came via Twitter and Instagram, with Instagram offering this:

That’s a pretty interesting looking drone…

“Designed for adventurous creators…Airpeak enables video creators to explore new frontiers for visual expression,” announced Keichiro Yoshida, chairman, president and CEO of Sony Corporation. “With Sony’s Alpha camera, stable, dynamic remote shooting is possible. Creators have unlimited potential to capture stunning images from above. Airpeak transforms the skies into an infinite, creative playground.”

Okay, what else do we know about the Sony Airpeak?

Well, despite the fact this is high-profile, it’s still something of a teaser. Here’s what the company says:

Sony launched the Airpeak brand with the goal to further develop today’s drone technology while achieving the utmost in value creation. As the first phase of this project, Sony will launch a new business targeted for professional photography and video production in the spring of 2021. In order to fully support the creativity of video creators, the payload of the drone can be equipped with an Alpha mirrorless camera to capture high-quality, full-frame aerial photography and video. Airpeak, the industry’s smallest class of drone that can be equipped with the Alpha system, is capable of dynamic filming and precise, stable flight, and aims to contribute to the world of entertainment while also pursuing new possibilities for creative expression.

Sony website

More video released on YouTube

The company released a longer video on YouTube, which gives us a glimpse – but really only a glimpse – of a few more features. It does, however, show some lovely stable aerial video:

Sony enters in bold fashion…

What does that video really show?

Well, once you start looking and taking frame grabs, there’s a fair bit we can actually glean.

The Airpeak appears to rest upside-down in its case, with arms attached

The arms stay fixed for transport

In this shot from the video, the legs are being attached. You can see what appears to be the gimbal mounting point – that circle with the four dots in the center.

FPV camera

FPV camera (top) and obstacle avoidance

Like DJI’s Inspire 2, the Airpeak has a separate camera for the pilot’s view. We’d expect this, given that it’s designed for cinematography. We’d also anticipate that, like the Inspire 2, there’s an option for dual controllers – with one person taking care of camera duties. Directly below, we see a module with two sensors. We’re guessing this is collision avoidance.

Sony actually boasted about AI in the announcement but offered no details. So we’re curious what AI is onboard…and what isn’t.

Dual batteries

The shot is very short, but you can clearly see two batteries going into the battery compartment. Hopefully, this adds up to some extended range for the drone. It’s unclear if they’re hot-swappable, as they are on more than one DJI product.

Two batteries fir in that bay…which offers protection from the elements

If you look on the right-hand side in the above pick, you’ll see another set of sensors. Again, we predict these are for obstacle avoidance. We can also see here that the arms appear to be made of carbon fibre or some other composite. The flight controller and other electronics appear to be concealed and protected from the weather.

Adjustable gimbal

You can see a couple of adjustments for center of gravity here, allowing you to balance out the load regardless of the lens you affix to the Sony Alpha camera. Also worth noting are what appear to be adjustable shock absorbers on the legs – handy for a rough landing.

What else is Sony revealing?

Not a whole lot, to be honest. This drone isn’t going to be released to the public immediately, and it appears Sony is interested in some fine-tuning with the help of content creators. Specifically, there’s an intriguing line in the company’s release: “Sony will continue to post project-related information going forward, and remains engaged in co-creation activities leading up to the launch of Airpeak in order to gain feedback from professional drone users.”

And how will that feedback work? Like this:

Sony is obtaining feedback from professional drone users and seeking collaborators* in the United States and Japan to participate in our Airpeak project. Be a part of our community! *Professional Collaborators: people and companies who currently use drones professionally to create content or provide additional services to customers.

Sony

And what are the benefits of collaborating? The following three bullets are straight from Sony:

  • Receive updates on events and other activities hosted by Sony.
  • Opportunities to collaborate with products under development.
  • Receive the latest information on our product development.

Whaaaat? That sounds like an amazing opportunity for skilled creators.

Interested? Find out more right here.

Finally…

It’s worth noting that as Sony is preparing to enter the market, Japan (where Sony is headquartered) is preparing to phase out Chinese-made drones when it comes to purchases by government agencies. We’ve touched on this previously here. It’s doubtful that this kind of drone would be of much interest to most government agencies.

However…if it’s just the first in a series…that’s a different story.


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