Just a year after its first official teaser, the Sony AirPeak drone has finally gone on sale – and the price tag puts it firmly on professional filmmakers with studio budgets.
The Airpeak S1 is Sony’s first drone, and is available to order in the US for $8,999 (about £6,760 / AU$12,670). Shipping is expected to begin on December 24, which means it could miss the Christmas stockings of excited movie directors.
Still, it’s good to hear that Airpeak will be out in the woods soon, given that the project was first announced in November 2020. Unlike DJI’s drones, which mostly have built-in cameras, the Sony AirPeak is supported by Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7S III and Sony FX3.
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Mount the Sony A1 camera in Airpeak, and you’ll have a full-frame drone capable of shooting in 8K resolution. While we’ve already seen an 8K drone in the Autel Evo II, the 1/2-inch sensor in that drone is pretty small.
So what else do you get for your $9,000? Beyond its ability to carry full-frame cameras, another advantage of the AirPeak’s shape is its wind resistance – Sony claims it can hold steady in winds of 44.7mph, which is comparable to that of one of its closest rivals, the DJI. Nearly twice the wind resistance of the Inspire. 2.
The Airpeak S1 can also hit a top speed of 55.9mph, making it nimble enough to chase cars in action sequences, while the combination of stereo cameras and a vision-sensing processor gives it 3D spatial awareness in real-time. It is, much like the drones of DJI and Skydio.
You also get an RCR-VH1 controller, which lets you control the drone, gimbal, and camera, though there’s also a dual operation mode that allows two people to control the plane and camera independently. This is likely to be the most common setup on professional shooting, especially with equipment over $10,000 in the air.
Slightly more limited, however, is an estimated 22 minutes of flight time – and that’s without payload. Once you have a camera on board, like the Sony A7S III with an FE 24mm f/1.4 GM lens, this battery life drops to just 12 minutes. Even though you can hot-swap the battery without turning off the airpike, it does mean that filmmakers need to be very clear about the shot before take-off.
Analysis: Sony flies into an airspace vacated by DJI
The Sony Airpeak S1 might not be the direct DJI rival that amateur fliers were hoping for, but it totally makes sense as a debut drone for a maker of professional full-frame cameras.
In recent years, DJI has focused more on building folding, compact drones for filmmakers, most recently packing its latest technology into the comparatively smaller DJI Mavic 3. While the latter weighs less than 900g, the Airpeak is 3.5x heavier without any battery pack – and is also something of an albatross in terms of wingspan.
DJI has the Inspire 2 in its lineup, which is similarly meant for professional cinematographers, and supports cameras like the Zenmuse X5S for shooting 5.2K/30p footage. But it’s five years old now, and DJI’s other big drones — like the mildly terrifying Matrice 300 series — are instead built more for emergency services, air defense and search-and-rescue teams.
It’s possible that the DJI AirPeak will respond with a rival, but the integration of Sony’s drones with its full-frame cameras — not to mention studios like Sony Pictures — means it remains the aerial rig of choice for many pro cinematographers. That’s likely, especially for those already on the ground using alpha cameras.
The question for amateur fliers is whether or not the Airpeak S1 will be the flagship drone of a series that eventually includes consumer models, or just a one-time toy for film directors. Our money is on Sony sticking to the high-end professional space, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t too eager to see the mini Sony AirPic RX100.
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