Sony’s drone is designed for your mirrorless camera

After months of teasers, Sony has finally released the full specifications of its very film-friendly Airpeak drone.

Sony has been teasing the Airpeak S1 release all spring, and we’re excited to finally see the full specs and final pictures of the new drone platform.

The drone market is currently heavily dominated by DJI. Other companies, even with great track records, have struggled to get into the field. Users are thrilled with Sony as it promises integration between the camera (manufactured by Sony) and the drone, which can provide huge imaging benefits.

This comes at a relatively high price of $ 9,000, of course, but that also serves as an indicator of who Sony is targeting with this drone and hopefully promises more deals.

The standout feature of the Airpeak S1 is that it is a drone platform designed to integrate with Sony’s popular Alpha line of full frame mirrorless cameras along with the FX3 Cine platform.

So if you already own and love yours Sony a1 or a7S III cameras you are halfway there. By taking the camera, which is often used as the A-camera in so many productions, and flying it, Sony offers the opportunity to take drone recordings that are guaranteed to fit perfectly with the rest of your footage. It’s the same camera and lens, after all.

To do this on other platforms, you’ll want to rent something like DJI’s heavier Matrice range, rather than something like their built-in DJI units. The Matrice range is getting a bit old in terms of the update cycle, which means that some of the newer features we see at Airpeak are not necessarily available on that platform just yet.

New features

What kind of new features are these? Well, one of the main focuses of the S1 is the exact location of the drone.

In addition to the typical GNSS tracking (Global Navigation System, the generic term for systems such as GPS or GLONASS), the S1 also has five sets of stereo cameras, air pressure, inertia Detection and infrared to estimate the position even if you don’t get a GPS signal.

Recognition: Sony

Why should filmmakers care about accuracy tracking? The function has enormous industrial benefits, as you can repeat flight plans perfectly over and over again and record them in time and repeat them every month or year.

Check power lines? You can run the exact flight plan over and over, which makes it easy to compare between inspections as they are scaled identically. However, when you’re not doing a sideline as an inspector, very accurate repeatability has applications in filmmaking in compositing.

Do you want a long, slow drone train that switches from winter to summer? Fly the shot in winter, fly it in summer, and the more accurate the trajectory, the simpler your composite will be.

The app

This is where the integration of camera and drone really comes together. You control everything, Sony Alpha camera, lens and drone, all via a single iOS application that even enables dual operator mode (one flies the drone, the other controls the camera).

This also means that all data from all systems is recorded and tracked together, which makes repeated camera movements much more accurate. Since we already know that Sony has built in internal motion sensors in its newer cameras, we are now seeing another application of this technology.

The S1 is fast too. It can be from resting 50 mph in just 3.5 seconds, which is faster than pretty much anything but the FPV offered by DJI.

And while the FPV is wonderful and a lot of fun, it isn’t really aimed at filmmaking and can’t really offer the operational flexibility you get with an S1 and an A1 attached to it. (Read our review on FPV here.)

To be able to do this, work in 44-degree wind, and reach a top speed of 56 mph is impressive for a device that can weigh 5 pounds or more, depending on the camera and lens combination.

Drones are tough. GoPro proved that with karma. But Sony now has a pretty long track record of getting into rooms and becoming dominant. This model name “S1” really calls for an “S2” or, in accordance with Sony’s conventions, perhaps an “S7”. This is probably too expensive for most of us, but the mindset and integrations seem very nifty and if Sony can make this a success we will be excited to see what DJI will do to counter this.

The air peak arrives in September. Try this out Airpeak portal for more.

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