Possibly you’re in search of a strategy 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 containers. So with that, right here’s my Sony Airpeak evaluation 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 digicam. It initially focused critical photographers given its functionality to hold the corporate’s beloved line of Alpha mirrorless cameras. Sony is among the largest digicam makers on the earth, and its line of Alpha collection is basically thought of top-of-the-line.
However till 2021, there was a void: no nice drones may maintain the Sony Alpha digicam and maintain the combination in controls throughout 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 elements from totally different producers and hoping they labored collectively (in the event that they had been even obtainable).
Then there have been workhorse drones just like the Encourage 2, which is an unbelievable high-quality, highly effective quadcopter that’s nonetheless pretty simple to fly — and likewise not fairly as giant as many rivals. However the Encourage 2 solely helps DJI in-house cameras, akin to the Zenmuse X4S, Zenmuse X5S and Zenmuse X7. For folk 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 kinds of purposes. 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 gentle drizzle. So with that, right here’s my full Sony Airpeak evaluation:
Sony Airpeak evaluation: the S1 drone itself
The Airpeak is a quadcopter drone weighing practically 7 lbs (and that’s earlier than you strap on gimbals, batteries or the digicam). 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 people discover the quadcopter type of this heavy-lifting drone to be a turnoff. That’s versus one thing like a hex or octcopter, which give 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 normally price nearer to $20,000 as soon as the gimbal and digicam get wrapped in (and also you seemingly don’t wish to crash your Sony Alpha collection digicam).
$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 digicam and lenses. Must you want a gimbal, that’s additionally not included.
I’ll define extra later what kinds of cameras this drone is appropriate with, however anticipate to pay an extra $2,000+ for the gimbal, between $1,800 and $6,500 for the digicam physique, and we’ll say at the very least $1,000 for the lens.
This isn’t the drone for an informal photographer in search of an alternate digicam drone to DJI. That’s, except you’re ultra-rich and cash isn’t an object in any respect.
Given the worth level alone, this drone is clearly for critical photographers taking cinema-quality footage (maybe for movies, TV commercials or billboard-type ads. On the enterprise finish, it’s for high-budget companies, particularly these on the lookout for the highest-quality drone in any respect prices (and notably a non-Chinese language made drone).
The way it flies
For folk who’ve by no means flown a heavy-lift drone earlier than, the Sony Airpeak S1 may 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 sort of twice as huge because the propellers on the DJI Mavic 3 collection (the propellers don’t fold both).
However when you get your fingers on the sticks, you’ll understand it’s really one of many best drones to fly — in a way feeling like a small, manageable drone. This drone is absolutely confidence-inspiring for hesitant pilots. Takeoff and touchdown really feel principally computerized. The drone has touchdown gear that raises and lowers robotically. As soon as in flight, the maneuvers are the identical as another drone, and there are toggles to even fly it FPV type.
It stays steady in enclosed areas or when out of vary of International Navigation Satellite tv for pc System (GNSS).
The drone flies by means 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 tools.
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 may well 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 execs. An enormous motive for that’s what’s thought of essentially the most essential security function: multi-directional sensing, coupled with an impediment braking operate (so if the drone senses an object in its path, it’ll hover however not crash into it). But it surely 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. On condition 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 may select to show off these sensors (the imaginative and prescient sensors are a stereo digicam in entrance, again, proper, left and downward instructions).
Sony Airpeak battery life
That is the largest 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 and marketing supplies, it’s really removed from that. That’s with out a payload, which is an unlikely use case. Add in commonest payloads, like an Alpha digicam 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 assemble pictures, plus some security buffer time, and that’s painfully missing flight time.
Whereas the battery life itself is atrocious, there may be some excellent news: batteries are scorching swappable. That principally means you don’t should utterly energy down the plane to alter batteries.
Sometimes while you purchase the Airpeak, it comes with two batteries. You possibly can purchase spares for $230 every. However the price is hardly the annoyance right here; it’s that particular person flights are dramatically restricted.
After I fly drones alone, my extraordinarily cautious self sometimes perceives the 10-minute mark because the time to start out returning to residence. With the Airpeak, the ten minute mark happens while 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 discover ways to change into a digicam firm after changing into a robotics firm. Then again, Sony had an attention-grabbing leg-up. Most people agree that the road of Alpha cameras is a superb product, so — when Sony made the choice to construct a digicam drone — it actually solely needed to construct the drone itself because the digicam was already made.
The Sony Airpeak is appropriate with the next Sony cameras:
It’s appropriate with the next lenses:
Although notice that when utilizing some wide-angled lenses, the plane itself can sometimes 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 by accident contacting the touchdown gear or the bottom.
I’ll spare you the evaluation of every particular person Sony digicam (the opposite huge digicam blogs can provide you much more complete critiques of those cameras than I can). However know that, as a result of the Sony Airpeak helps the entire above, there are such a lot of sorts and mixtures of cameras and lenses you should utilize with this drone, unlocking huge potential within the sorts of images and movies that this drone can take. Select the digicam 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:
- The whole digicam system, together with physique, lens and potential extras like lens filter or hood, can not weigh greater than 1.1 kg.
- You possibly can fly this drone by way of twin operator capabilities, so one particular person can give attention to 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 quite a lot 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 simple to make use of, conveniently connecting to the Airpeak S1 by way of 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 case 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) while you issue within the damper plate and cables. Assuming you’re utilizing the gimbal, you’ll should issue that weigh into your (already-limited) flight time.
The gimbal is superb when it comes to high quality, in a position to quickly reply to fast turns. I carried out a check flight the place I admittedly, deliberately flew like a maniac, tilting the drone back and forth in fast succession, and you could possibly see no distinction within the footage. It’s impossibly easy.
The downfall is that, with only one gimbal to select from, the GBL-T3 from Gremsy, you don’t have any choices when it comes to a cheaper price 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 purposes
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 business.
There are a number of the reason why the Sony drone is so nice for enterprise purposes. Given options like ultra-high wind resistance (that’s greater than most rivals) and sense and avoidance, the construct of the drone itself is superb. It’s dependable in all kinds of the way. For instance, the compass on the Sony Airpeak cycles by itself so — if flying in areas that 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 purposes. In February 2020, Sony launched a brand new SDK (software program growth package), giving third-party builders the flexibility to create instruments to regulate cameras together with the Sony α7R IV and α9 II cameras. That’s enabled extra purposes together with real-time visualization, augmented and digital actuality options, photogrammetry and 3D scanning. (The truth is, I used Sony’s drone to make what was my first-ever LiDAR map in an expertise I’ll element in a future weblog put up).
After which there’s another reason why Sony is wildly common in industrial purposes — that Sony type of lucked into: Sony isn’t a Chinese language firm.
Many within the drone business have pushed again laborious on Chinese language companies. Whereas many of us want drones made in America (Sony is a Japanese firm), at the very least Airpeak isn’t made by a Chinese language firm — and it’s undoubtedly not made by DJI.
The truth is, 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 firms, together with DJI (and others akin to China’s high chipmaker, SMIC) on a restricted commerce record.
Guidelines have gone backwards and forwards on whether or not or not the federal government should buy drones (it could 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 firms seeking to purchase a drone sure they will use, skipping Chinese language-made drones appears to be the transfer.
Sony Airpeak evaluation: is it price it?
For folk 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 combination with the Alpha digicam ensures unparalleled picture high quality.
No different drone affords the combination that Sony does between the Alpha digicam and the pilot. It’s preferrred for cinematographers who wish to 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 generally 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 purposes this is among the greatest payloads within the enterprise.
That mentioned, the flight time is atrocious. If flight instances beneath 15 minute are a dealbreaker for you (and they’re for a lot of folks) skip this drone till Sony solves that downside. 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.
In addition to the battery life, the Airpeak wants to resolve having a fully-integrated digicam payload. The Gremsy gimbal works nice, but it surely’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. On condition that, it may be price ready for the second version, earlier than selecting up this one. However for folk needing the easiest way to combine a Sony Alpha digicam into their flights (and for folk in search of a sturdy, dependable DJI various), the Sony Airpeak S1 is totally a winner — so long as they don’t thoughts the tough battery life.
Editor’s notice and FTC disclaimer: My Sony Airpeak evaluation 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. Sometimes I evaluation drones solely alone — alone time and at my very own expense. However given the character (and excessive price) of this product, it was solely attainable for me to evaluation this product beneath the purview of Sony itself.
Whereas Sony didn’t pay for me to evaluation the Sony Airpeak S1 drone, the corporate did cowl lodging in San Diego which was needed for me to take part of their summit (and was the identical place I reviewed their drone). Sony didn’t affect this evaluation and didn’t see the contents of the Sony Airpeak evaluation earlier than it was revealed.