Sony’s Airpeak S1 Drone Is Made for Alpha Mirrorless Cameras

The AirPeak offers more lift and power than similar-sized drones and promises closer integration with Sony A-series mirrorless cameras.

Sony’s mirrorless camera system is a darling of YouTubers, vloggers, and pro photographers. It’s a mature system, with the widest selection of lenses and accessories you can find for any mirrorless line. And, with the introduction of the Airpeak S1 drone, the only system with a tightly integrated platform for aerial imaging.

The Airpeak S1 is still under development, but Sony has gotten some information ahead of a planned autumn launch. It’s a larger plane, similar in size and shape to the DJI Inspire 2, but with more power for a beefier payload, faster acceleration, and full remote camera controls.

Sony AirPeak S1 (Image: Sony)

The quadcopter also includes safety features. Onboard cameras map the surroundings to brake when obstacles are detected and help stabilize it when GPS is not available. With GPS enabled, you will get homecoming, customizable geofence and other basic security features.

Made for Cinema, and Valuable

Sony is also targeting high-end users with this. The S1 is more likely to be used in a production environment, and is priced in the line. It starts at $8,999.99, a figure that doesn’t include the price of the camera, lens, or gimbal, or even the extra propeller. You get the S1, a remote control, two flight batteries and four propellers in the kit.

That’s not all you need to get started. The gimbal for one is not included. It is the only piece of package not developed by Sony. Instead the S1 uses a custom version of the Gremsy T3, with design changes specifically made to match this aircraft. Pricing isn’t available, but the standard version of the T3 retails for $1,749. You shouldn’t be surprised if the Airpeak version costs more.

Sony Airpeak S1Sony AirPeak S1 (Image: Sony)

That’s an expensive proposition, putting you well over the $10,000 mark without taking into account cameras, extra propellers, extra batteries, and a carrying case. If you expected Sony to deliver a consumer drone to compete with the DJI Mavic Air 2, you’re in for some disappointment.

dual operator support

The pros absolutely need another remote. Airpeak S1 supports dual operator control. For use in the cinema, this means you will have a licensed pilot operating the aircraft and a cinematographer handling the camera and gimbal controls.

It’s a good idea to focus on piloting the pilot. The S1 has more speed than the already faster DJI Inspire 2. The S1 accelerates from 0 to 50mph in 3.5 seconds (compared to 5 seconds for the Inspire 2), is stable in 44.7mph air, and can fly at less than 56mph without payload.

Airpeak S1 RemoteRemote Control (Image: Sony)

Extra flight batteries are also important. The S1 is powered by two flight batteries, but is only good for a flight time of about 22 minutes without payload. With the a7S III and 24mm F1.4 GM load, a pretty standard kit for aerial work, the airtime has been reduced to 12 minutes. You’ll want to plan your shots before you fly.

Compatible Cameras and Software

What matters is the camera of your choice. The S1 supports the Sony a1, a9 II, a7S III, a7R IV, and FX3 and FE prime lenses from 14mm to 85mm. You’ll get more flight time with the slimmed-down package built around the FX3, a smaller lens like the FE 24mm F2.8 G, than you would with a heavier camera and lens.

You will enjoy full control of Sony camera via remote. Sony isn’t officially supporting other brands, but the gimbal uses standard HDMI and USB connections to communicate with the camera, so you’ll still get a live video feed when using another brand.

Sony Airpeak S1Sony AirPeak S1 (Image: Sony)

Software support also matters. The Airpeak S1 requires an iOS device to run its controls app, and Sony has yet to commit to developing a version for Android devices. The S1 remote is big enough to hold a tablet, and Sony expects more operators to use the iPad as a display due to the larger screen size.

Web based software is also included. Airpeak Base is a cloud app for fleet management—useful for rental homes and production studios. It also includes mission planning tools for preset waypoints and camera movement, and a logbook so you can review past flights.

We’ll have more information about the Airpeak S1 release date as we get closer. Sony expects it to ship this fall.

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