Sony has finally unveiled and announced its foray into aerial robotics the Airpeak S1. The $ 9,000 professional drone promises exceptional flight performance, obstacle detection systems and “heavy-lift” capability in a device that is only slightly larger than a DJI Inspire 2.
Sony advertises the Airpeak S1 as the smallest drone capable of handling the load of a full-size mirrorless camera and its associated large prime lens, a combination normally reserved for larger “heavy-lift” quadcopters like that DJI Matrice 200. Capable of carrying up to five pounds of camera equipment, the S1 can accelerate from zero to 80 mph in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 85.9 mph. According to Sony, this is a faster acceleration than DJI’s Inspire 2, and the top speed is above DJI’s heavy-duty Matrice, which is 80 mph.
Much of what Sony has achieved here is thanks to its tightly integrated system. With extensive knowledge of a wide range of electronics, the S1 uses a proprietary motor, propeller, control system, and sensor technology. The S1 is supported by an independent controller as well as a dedicated app (which only starts for iOS, without saying if or when it comes to Android) and includes integrated obstacle detection.
[Airpeak S1’s] The newly developed propulsion system focuses on the aircraft’s responsiveness for the most intuitive flying for professional developers. The Airpeak system is optimized to ensure stable flight even in strong winds.
As shown in videos in the past, Sony advertises that the S1 is the most stable drone in its class even under adverse conditions. It has a maximum pitch angle of 55 degrees, which means that extreme lean angles can be achieved with high maneuverability. In addition, it can withstand winds of up to 74.7 miles per hour.
When it comes to wind resistance specifically, Sony says the Inspire can’t hold a flat angle or lean angle in the same environment, and the Matrice 200 – while far more stable than the Inspire – can’t hold a fixed position at wind speeds than the S1 Fixed. Hence, Sony argues that the S1 outperforms both of them.
However, all this speed, power and stability have their price: the S1 is only for a maximum flight time of 22 minutes without payload and only for 12 minutes with an Alpha 7S Mark III and a 24 mm f / 1.4. designed lens.
A number of sensors
For collision detection, the S1 is equipped with Sony image sensors at five important points: at the front, back, left, right and at the bottom of the aircraft. Sony says that its Vision Sensing Processor processes camera data at high speed and with low power consumption and, in combination with its proprietary algorithms, can accurately assess the spatial position and orientation of the aircraft in real time. The company says this allows for stable flight even in environments where global navigation satellite system (GNSS) reception may be impeded, such as indoors or under bridges.
Sony says it uses the five directional cameras to define the 3D space the drone is flying in for optimal control and stability.
The Airpeak S1 is also equipped with a unique, high-performance in-house flight control system that Sony claims integrates all of the sensor information such as that from the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), direction, air pressure and infrared distance to optimize its flight and propulsion.
The sensors and on-board electronics work together to enable the S1 to perform multi-directional obstacle braking. This language seems carefully crafted as Sony does not claim that it can avoid objects, but rather prevents collisions with them, which separates it from industry leader DJI’s expectations for collision avoidance. Still, Sony says these stereo cameras and an infrared range finder mounted on top of the drone will detect obstacles near the aircraft and allow it to automatically decelerate and stop according to the aircraft’s behavior and surrounding conditions.
Sony will launch the Airpeak S1 with the Airpeak Flight App, an app only for iOS and iPadOS (at startup) that connects to the drone and allows control of the camera and gimbal, and allows an operator to view status information such as Monitor flight distance and time remaining to monitor battery power as well as change various operations and settings.
Together with the app, the S1 is controlled by a supplied controller. In this way, the drone supports the dual mode of operation, so that one user can carry out the flight while another can concentrate on camera control. A camera attached to the nose of the aircraft can be tilt-operated from the remote control so that the pilot can better follow the surroundings and the flight path.
Sony is also launching the Airpeak Base web application, which enables integrated flight planning, fleet management and a logbook viewer.
Operators can create advanced flight plans and automatically fly the aircraft repeatedly on the same course in an “on rails” experience. The position (latitude, longitude and altitude) and speed of the drone can be pre-programmed along a time axis and the pilot can even set the orientation of the gimbal and the time of the video or still image recording. Flights can be reproduced identically to previous flight logs, which enables multiple recordings in professional scenarios and also relieves the stress of the short battery life – the S1 can be landed, equipped with a new battery and sent back on the same detection path.
Sony also announced Airpeak Plus, a cloud-based service that enables AirPeak Base to be used and includes a protection plan that covers accidental damage to the drone.
Sony says the Airpeak S1 will be compatible with a number of Sony Alpha cameras, including the Alpha 1, Alpha 9 Mark II, Alpha 7S Mark III, Alpha 7R Mark IV, and the FX3. It also works with a range of lenses from 14mm to 85mm focal length. When connecting to the S1, both the USB port and HDMI are plugged in.
Sony has not tested or published any information regarding the use of a third-party camera. Sony advises that compatibility is not necessarily impossible, but is not revealing any further details at this time. A Sony representative noted that the app and controller’s ability to send data to the aircraft and then to the camera through the gimbal is theoretically the only limiting factor as the drone itself and the gimbal would likely be capable to physically handle a third party camera.
The gimbal is included
The gimbal is the only part that Sony doesn’t specifically make and is a custom Gemsy Gimbal T3. This gimbal is also not included in the purchase price and this particular gimbal is listed for $ 1,750 on Gemsy’s websites, Sony says that some custom work may differ from the final S1 design price, which was not stated at the time of publication.
Sony has not tested the signal range of the Airpeak S1 and therefore did not express any expectations at the time of the announcement. The company was also unable to answer whether the drone could automatically return to its starting location in the event of a loss of connection. Sony representatives noted that the drone has a return home option. So if the startup is not an automatic function, it could theoretically be added via a firmware update.
It is also noteworthy that Sony has no plans at all to provide the drone with a geo-fence. The S1’s ability to fly in any airspace is not blocked by the manufacturer and, at the time of publication, Sony placed responsibility for flight position directly on the pilot. This is in direct contrast to DJI, which by default prevented the flight over certain locations B. Airports, unless the company has explicitly enabled this with the appropriate permission of the FAA.
Finally, Sony has specifically stated that the Airpeak S1 is made in Japan. The company says this could help allay some concerns associated with products made in China.
The Airpeak S1 sells for $ 9,000. It can be pre-ordered and will be delivered to customers in autumn 2021. It comes with the main aircraft, four propellers, a remote control, two batteries and a charger. Additional propellers will be available in packs of two along with spare batteries and chargers. As already mentioned, the gimbal is also sold separately. At the time of the announcement, no prices for accessories or replacement parts were quoted.