Possibly you’re in search of a method to fly the Sony Alpha full body cameras. Maybe you want an ultra-reliable drone for enterprise operations that has impediment avoidance and holds up in excessive winds. Otherwise you’re you’re in search of a drone that’s particularly not made in China (or simply that doesn’t include DJI). The Sony Airpeak drone checks all these packing containers. So with that, right here’s my Sony Airpeak evaluate of the Airpeak S1 drone:
A quick historical past of the Sony Airpeak
The Sony Airpeak S1 was first teased at CES 2021 because the world‘s smallest drone that may carry a full body Alpha collection mirrorless digital camera. It initially focused critical photographers given its functionality to hold the corporate’s beloved line of Alpha mirrorless cameras. Sony is among the largest digital camera makers on the planet, and its line of Alpha collection is basically thought of probably the greatest.
However till 2021, there was a void: no nice drones may maintain the Sony Alpha digital camera and maintain the mixing in controls inside the pilot’s fingertips. There have been different heavy-lift drones on the market that might carry cinema-quality cameras just like the RED Digital Cinemas, however most had a comparatively excessive diploma of DIY-droning concerned — cobbling collectively components from totally different producers and hoping they labored collectively (in the event that they have been even out there).
Then there have been workhorse drones just like the Encourage 2, which is an unbelievable high-quality, highly effective quadcopter that’s nonetheless pretty straightforward to fly — and likewise not fairly as giant as many opponents. However the Encourage 2 solely helps DJI in-house cameras, corresponding to the Zenmuse X4S, Zenmuse X5S and Zenmuse X7. For people in search of to fly one thing totally different, that wouldn’t work.
The power to carry the Alpha in an built-in mid-size, heavy-lift package deal promised to be a game-changer. So is it really a game-changer?
I flew it for myself for the primary time in March 2023. I spent a weekend with it, utilizing it for check flights consultant of all types of functions. I took it out over the water to movie some jet ski athletes, and I used it to make a LiDAR map. I flew it in solar and in mild drizzle. So with that, right here’s my full Sony Airpeak evaluate:
Sony Airpeak evaluate: the S1 drone itself
The Airpeak is a quadcopter drone weighing almost 7 lbs (and that’s earlier than you strap on gimbals, batteries or the digital camera). It’s designed to hold the Sony Alpha collection of full body cameras, and may fly payloads as much as 5 lbs and 9 ounces.
Some of us discover the quadcopter model of this heavy-lifting drone to be a turnoff. That’s versus one thing like a hex or octcopter, which offer for redundancies if one of many rotors dies off. Whereas I discovered the drone itself to be strong and highly effective, that’s actually a danger, contemplating that the drone is often price nearer to $20,000 as soon as the gimbal and digital camera get wrapped in (and also you possible don’t wish to crash your Sony Alpha collection digital camera).
$17,000? On the floor, the Airpeak drone itself prices $9,000, however that’s hardly what you’ll pay for it. You’ll want your personal digital camera and lenses. Do you have to want a gimbal, that’s additionally not included.
I’ll define extra later what types of cameras this drone is appropriate with, however count on to pay an extra $2,000+ for the gimbal, between $1,800 and $6,500 for the digital camera physique, and we’ll say a minimum of $1,000 for the lens.
This isn’t the drone for an informal photographer in search of another digital camera drone to DJI. That’s, except you’re ultra-rich and cash is just not an object in any respect.
Given the value level alone, this drone is clearly for critical photographers taking cinema-quality footage (maybe for movies, TV commercials or billboard-type commercials. On the enterprise finish, it’s for high-budget companies, particularly these in search of the highest-quality drone in any respect prices (and notably a non-Chinese language made drone).
The way it flies
For people who’ve by no means flown a heavy-lift drone earlier than, the Sony Airpeak S1 would possibly look intimidating. With a 25.5 inch diagonal wheelbase (and that’s with out propellers) it’s actually an enormous drone. The propellers themselves are 17 inches, which is nearly twice as massive because the propellers on the DJI Mavic 3 collection (the propellers don’t fold both).
However when you get your arms on the sticks, you’ll notice it’s really one of many best drones to fly — in a way feeling like a small, manageable drone. This drone is basically confidence-inspiring for hesitant pilots. Takeoff and touchdown really feel mainly computerized. The drone has touchdown gear that raises and lowers routinely. As soon as in flight, the maneuvers are the identical as every other drone, and there are toggles to even fly it FPV model.
It stays secure in enclosed areas or when out of vary of World Navigation Satellite tv for pc System (GNSS).
The drone flies by way of a controller, which has customizable buttons. The controller works with the “Airpeak Flight” app to regulate the drone (and see what it’s seeing) in flight. There’s additionally an “Airpeak Base” internet app for built-in administration of flight plans, flight logs, and gear.
Highly effective in heavy winds
I flew in San Diego in February throughout California’s unexpectedly turbulent storms, and the drone held up with no issues. It has a maximal wind resistance of 44.7 mph (that’s 20m/s, and likewise assumes no payload), which is greater than what you’ll discover on the Matrice 300 RTK (the DJI Matrice 300 RTK has a max wind resistance of 33.5 mph or 15 m/s).
It might fly in temperatures as chilly as 14℉ and as heat as 104 ℉.
Sony Airpeak drone security options
This drone can cater to any pilot, whether or not completely newbie or seasoned professionals. An enormous purpose for that’s what’s thought of essentially the most essential security characteristic: multi-directional sensing, coupled with an impediment braking perform (so if the drone senses an object in its path, it’ll hover however not crash into it). Nevertheless it doesn’t simply brake abruptly, as is the case with many different drones. The Airpeak’s imaginative and prescient sensors allow it to see roughly 180 toes (55 meters) away. Provided that, the drone is ready to sense and object and decelerate reasonably than come to a sudden halt.
Relying on the use case, superior pilots would possibly select to show off these sensors (the imaginative and prescient sensors are a stereo digital camera in entrance, again, proper, left and downward instructions).
Sony Airpeak battery life
That is the most important space the place the Sony Airpeak falls flat: battery life. Whereas Sony touts this drone as having 22 minutes of battery life in most of its advertising supplies, it’s really removed from that. That’s with out a payload, which is an unlikely use case. Add in most typical payloads, like an Alpha digital camera and gimbal, and the battery life drops all the way down to 12 minutes. Account for time to fly the drone from its takeoff web site to the place it really wants to collect photos, plus some security buffer time, and that’s painfully missing flight time.
Whereas the battery life itself is atrocious, there’s some excellent news: batteries are scorching swappable. That mainly means you don’t must fully energy down the plane to alter batteries.
Usually once you purchase the Airpeak, it comes with two batteries. You may purchase spares for $230 every. However the associated fee is hardly the annoyance right here; it’s that particular person flights are dramatically restricted.
Once I fly drones by myself, my extraordinarily cautious self sometimes perceives the 10-minute mark because the time to begin returning to dwelling. With the Airpeak, the ten minute mark happens once you’ve simply gotten began.
Utilizing the Sony Airpeak drone for cinematography
DJI began off making drones that didn’t have cameras, so it needed to learn to turn into a digital camera firm after changing into a robotics firm. However, Sony had an attention-grabbing leg-up. Most people agree that the road of Alpha cameras is a good product, so — when Sony made the choice to construct a digital camera drone — it actually solely needed to construct the drone itself because the digital camera was already made.
The Sony Airpeak is appropriate with the next Sony cameras:
It’s appropriate with the next lenses:
Although observe that when utilizing some wide-angled lenses, the plane itself can often partially hinder the shot, notably when sharply shifting. It’s additionally appropriate with lenses as much as 100mm; that’s to keep away from the lens unintentionally contacting the touchdown gear or the bottom.
I’ll spare you the evaluate of every particular person Sony digital camera (the opposite massive digital camera blogs can provide you much more complete opinions of those cameras than I can). However know that, as a result of the Sony Airpeak helps all the above, there are such a lot of sorts and mixtures of cameras and lenses you need to use with this drone, unlocking large potential within the sorts of pictures and movies that this drone can take. Select the digital camera you need with the lens you wish to allow your imaginative and prescient to shine.
There are a number of different notes on utilizing the Sony Airpeak drone for images:
- Your complete digital camera system, together with physique, lens and potential extras like lens filter or hood, can’t weigh greater than 1.1 kg.
- You may fly this drone through twin operator capabilities, so one particular person can deal with flying the drone whereas the opposite particular person can maneuver the gimbal.
The Sony Airpeak gimbal
For now, the Sony Airpeak S1 drone is just appropriate with one gimbal, the GBL-T3 from Gremsy. Gremsy is a Vietnamese gimbal maker that’s recognized for gimbals together with the Gremsy T3, Gremsy S1, Pixy F, and Pixy U. Its merchandise are utilized in a wide range of enterprise and cinema drones, together with German-based Digicopter and a few Auterion-powered drone platforms.
And it integrates seamlessly with the Airpeak, too. It’s straightforward to make use of, conveniently connecting to the Airpeak S1 through a fast launch mechanism. It affords 345° of panning and 120° of tilt adjustment.
The kicker is that it doesn’t include the drone; it comes at an extra price. The Gremsy gimbal sometimes sells for $2,200, and it’s essential in the event you intend to make use of this drone for aerial videography.
The gimbal itself weighs 2.5 kilos (1.1 kg), or 3.1 kilos (1.4 kg) once you issue within the damper plate and cables. Assuming you’re utilizing the gimbal, you’ll must issue that weigh into your (already-limited) flight time.
The gimbal is superb when it comes to high quality, capable of quickly reply to fast turns. I performed a check flight the place I admittedly, deliberately flew like a maniac, tilting the drone backward and forward in speedy succession, and you would see no distinction within the footage. It’s impossibly clean.
The downfall is that, with only one gimbal to select from, the GBL-T3 from Gremsy, you haven’t any choices when it comes to a lower cost nor a lighter weight. I’ve a sense Sony will finally enable for extra appropriate gimbals to combine with its drone, however for now that is it.
Utilizing the Sony Airpeak drone for enterprise functions
Sony initially marketed its Airpeak drone closely towards skilled photographers. I get the sense that even Sony was shocked by how quickly it was adopted by the enterprise and industrial aspect of the trade.
There are a number of the explanation why the Sony drone is so nice for enterprise functions. Given options like ultra-high wind resistance (that’s larger than most opponents) and sense and avoidance, the construct of the drone itself is superb. It’s dependable in all types of the way. For instance, the compass on the Sony Airpeak cycles by itself so — if flying in areas which may in any other case trigger electromagnetic area points — the drone’s compass stays strong and dependable.
Then there’s the crossover between Sony’s Alpha collection of cameras and different industrial imaging functions. In February 2020, Sony launched a brand new SDK (software program improvement package), giving third-party builders the power to create instruments to regulate cameras together with the Sony α7R IV and α9 II cameras. That’s enabled extra functions together with real-time visualization, augmented and digital actuality options, photogrammetry and 3D scanning. (Actually, I used Sony’s drone to make what was my first-ever LiDAR map in an expertise I’ll element in a future weblog submit).
After which there’s another reason why Sony is wildly widespread in industrial functions — that Sony sort of lucked into: Sony is just not a Chinese language firm.
Many within the drone trade have pushed again onerous on Chinese language companies. Whereas many people desire drones made in America (Sony is a Japanese firm), a minimum of Airpeak is just not made by a Chinese language firm — and it’s positively not made by DJI.
Actually, Congress in 2019 handed laws particularly banning the Division of Protection from buying and utilizing drones and elements manufactured in China. On the finish of 2020, the U.S. authorities put dozens of Chinese language corporations, together with DJI (and others corresponding to China’s high chipmaker, SMIC) on a restricted commerce listing.
Guidelines have gone backwards and forwards on whether or not or not the federal government can buy drones (it may possibly range by company and whether or not these businesses have waivers). However the proposed American Safety Drone Act would prohibit all U.S. federal businesses from buying Chinese language-made drones. (As of December 2022, the invoice is sitting with the Committee on Homeland Safety and Governmental Affairs).
Alas, for corporations trying to purchase a drone sure they’ll use, skipping Chinese language-made drones appears to be the transfer.
Sony Airpeak evaluate: is it price it?
For people particularly in search of to fly the Sony Alpha collection of cameras, this drone is the one to do it. Sony already shines within the brand-recognition of its cameras, and the mixing with the Alpha digital camera ensures unparalleled picture high quality.
No different drone affords the mixing that Sony does between the Alpha digital camera and the pilot. It’s splendid for cinematographers who need too incorporate drone footage into their movies, whereas nonetheless sustaining the aesthetic of their different pictures. Generally different drone cameras just like the DJI drone supply what is solely a differing picture high quality. That may typically stick out like — not essentially a sore, however — a distinct thumb.
The Sony Airpeak S1 drone can be proving its personal in lots of enterprise use instances. It’s able to thermal imaging, high-powered zoom and mapping. I used it to make a Lidar map, and for mapping functions this is among the greatest payloads within the enterprise.
That mentioned, the flight time is atrocious. If flight occasions below 15 minute are a dealbreaker for you (and they’re for a lot of people) skip this drone till Sony solves that drawback. For what it’s price, I get the sense that bettering battery life is a excessive precedence (and maybe a high precedence) within the second iteration of Sony’s Airpeak drone.
Apart from the battery life, the Airpeak wants to unravel having a fully-integrated digital camera payload. The Gremsy gimbal works nice, however it’s nonetheless tough to spend time on a third-party gimbal.
There are some clear alternatives for enchancment within the subsequent era of Sony Airpeak. Provided that, it could be price ready for the second version, earlier than selecting up this one. However for people needing one of the simplest ways to combine a Sony Alpha digital camera into their flights (and for people in search of a sturdy, dependable DJI different), the Sony Airpeak S1 is totally a winner — so long as they don’t thoughts the tough battery life.
Editor’s observe and FTC disclaimer: My Sony Airpeak evaluate relies on my expertise flying the drone on the Sony Airpeak Summit in February 2023 in San Diego, which was an invitation-only gathering hosted by Sony. Usually I evaluate drones solely by myself — by myself time and at my very own expense. However given the character (and excessive price) of this product, it was solely potential for me to evaluate this product below the purview of Sony itself.
Whereas Sony didn’t pay for me to evaluate the Sony Airpeak S1 drone, the corporate did cowl lodging in San Diego which was vital for me to take part of their summit (and was the identical place I reviewed their drone). Sony didn’t affect this evaluate and didn’t see the contents of the Sony Airpeak evaluate earlier than it was printed.