Sony is now fully taking the covers off its Airpeak S1 drone, which it first teased at CES 2021 in January. Today’s announcement reveals extensive details about the drone’s features and capabilities. It also unveils a $9,000 price tag, without a gimbal or camera, making it quite evident that the drone is aimed only at professional filmmakers with deep pockets.
Meanwhile, we couldn’t help but notice that Sony has built a lot of components and technology in-house, including a proprietary motor, 17-inch propellers, a flight control system, and image sensing technology.
This is a clear indicator that the Japanese conglomerate is in it for the long haul and maybe, just maybe, the Airpeak range could offer something to hobbyist drone users too in the future.
Airpeak S1: a “made in Japan” drone
Sony pitches the S1 as the “introductory” model in the Airpeak line. In a nutshell, the “made in Japan” drone integrates seamlessly with Sony’s full-size Alpha cameras and comes with an advanced remote controller. Further, the cinematography drone supports obstacle detection, automatic flight control, as well as cloud management of the aircraft and flight information.
Admittedly, the Airpeak S1 looks similar in size and shape to the DJI’s filmmaking drone, Inspire 2. But Sony is quick to point out that S1 is the world’s smallest drone that can be equipped with an Alpha mirrorless camera. Let’s see its specifications and capabilities in detail now.
Sony Airpeak S1: speed and flight time
The S1 can achieve a maximum speed of 55mph (90kph) without payload. But there’s no word from Sony on what the maximum achievable speed would be once a camera is included.
Without payload, Sony’s new drone can fly for 22 minutes. And with a camera, Airpeak S1 will have around 12 minutes of flight time.
Incredible wind resistance
Sony’s Airpeak S1 drone can provide wind resistance in strong wind speeds up to 44.7mph (20m/s), and this capability is going to be one of its key selling points.
You can read this earlier piece about a wind resistance test of the S1 that left us suitably impressed. As we have said before, professional productions requiring aerial cinematography are often complex in nature. If it’s for a commercial or film, there are a ton of other people waiting for you to get the right shot. Being able to fly comfortably in high winds provides a real advantage.
Vision Sensing Processor for flight stability
Five stereo cameras installed in the front, back, left, right, and bottom of the aircraft fuel Sony’s Vision Sensing Processor, which processes camera data at high speed and with low power consumption. The drone manufacturer says it is leveraging proprietary algorithms to accurately estimate the aircraft’s spatial position and orientation in real-time. This capability allows the Airpeak S1 to support stable flights even in GPS/GNSS-hindered environments, such as indoors or under bridges.
The Airpeak S1 is also equipped with a unique high-performance flight control system that integrates all sensor information such as IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), direction, barometric pressure, and infrared ranging to optimize the propulsion device.
Multi-directional obstacle detection
The above-mentioned multi-directional stereo cameras enable an obstacle braking function, too. Here, an infrared range-finding sensor mounted on the top of the drone also comes into play. Once an obstacle is recognized, the aircraft automatically decelerates and reacts according to the surrounding conditions.
Multiple cameras and lens compatibility
Sony says the Airpeak S1 is compatible with a wide range of camera bodies including the Alpha 7S series and FX3 for high descriptive capability with suppressed noise, the Alpha 7R series for ultra-high-definition, and the Alpha 9 series and others for distortion-free images. Also compatible is the innovative Alpha 1, which can shoot in 8K.
Web app to create automatic flight plans
A web application called “Airpeak Base” allows the operator to manage equipment, create flight plans, and manage flight logs. Operators set the position (latitude, longitude, and altitude) and speed of the drone along the timeline. They also specify the orientation of the gimbal and the timing of video or still image shooting.
Sony says this app also supports the creation of advanced flight plans, through which an operator can automatically fly the Airpeak S1 along the same course repeatedly as if the drone were on rails installed in the air. We suspect this feature will remind enterprise drone users of the DJI M300 RTK drone’s Smart Inspection capabilities.
‘Airpeak Flight’ mission control app
A new app and controller, “Airpeak Flight,” which is only iOS-compatible at the moment, integrates the aircraft, transmitter, camera, and gimbal. This enables the pilot to monitor the flight distance and remaining battery power, and change various operations and settings on the fly.
There is also a dual operation mode, which means one user can operate the drone, while another can operate the gimbal and camera simultaneously – all while checking the same image, even in complicated scenes.
Airpeak Flight picks up information from Airpeak Base as well, so that all flight information and logs are stored in one place. Other useful details such as in-flight errors are also reviewable here.
Accidental cover plan
Sony plans to offer “Airpeak Protect Plan,” a service plan to cover accidental damage to the drone. This will be made available through a cloud service called “Airpeak Plus.” However, details of the same will be shared only once the product and services are ready to go on sale. Which begs the question: When can you actually buy the Sony Airpeak S1 drone?
Sony Airpeak S1 pre-order and sales
First, let us tell you what the $9,000 price tag contains. The S1 will ship with two pairs of propellers, a remote controller, two batteries, and a battery charger. As specified earlier, the camera and gimbal will need to be purchased separately. As for the market launch, Sony is planning to make the Airpeak S1 available for pre-order in the fall of 2021. We will update you as we learn more details.
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