Sony launches Airpeak S1, its first professional drone

June 10, 2021  - By

Sony’s first professional drone is small, but can be equipped with alpha mirrorless camera

Sony Electronics Inc. has announced its first professional drone, the Airpeak S1. An introductory model in the new Airpeak line, the S1 is a small drone that can be equipped with Sony’s full-size mirrorless interchangeable-lens Alpha camera.

The new drone uses a proprietary motor, propeller, control system and sensing technology, allowing it to fly at extremely high speeds with stable wind resistance.

The Airpeak S1 features an advanced remote controller that can support the production of high-quality aerial images and freely control the aircraft. It also includes obstacle detection, automatic flight control via sensing and increased safety via cloud management of the aircraft and flight information.

“Sony is excited to launch our new drone business with the Airpeak S1,” said Yang Cheng, Vice President, Imaging Solutions, Sony Electronics Inc. “Combining an extremely compact size with some of Sony’s most advanced imaging, sensing, AI and robotics technologies, the S1 will allow content creators, storytellers and commercial professionals to capture that which they’ve never been able to capture before.”

Advanced flight performance

The new Airpeak S1 offers dynamic flying capabilities, including a maximum speed of 55mph (90km/h), a maximum angular velocity of 180°/s, and a maximum tilt angle of 55°.

Propulsion technology using a combination of key devices developed by Sony provides wind resistance in strong wind speeds up to 44.7 mph (20 m/s).

In addition to the lightweight, highly efficient, sturdy and responsive proprietary 17″ propeller and brushless motor, the Airpeak S1 is equipped with an electric speed controller (ESC) for optimal control of these components. A unique, high-performance flight control system integrates the propulsion device and all sensor information to ensure stable flight and high maneuverability, Sony stated.

Stable flight by sensing

Stereo cameras equipped with Sony’s image sensors are installed in five locations (front, back, left, right, bottom) of the aircraft. Sony’s vision-sensing processor, which processes camera data at high speed and with low power consumption, and proprietary algorithms are used to accurately estimate the aircraft’s spatial position and orientation in real time, enabling stable flight even in environments where it may be hindered, such as indoors or under bridges.

The Airpeak S1 is also equipped with a unique high-performance flight-control system that integrates all sensor information such as inertial measurement unit (IMU), direction, barometric pressure and infrared ranging to optimize the propulsion device.

The Airpeak S1 uses multi-directional sensors to enable its obstacle braking function. The front, rear, left and right stereo cameras and the infrared range-finding sensor mounted on the top recognize obstacles in the vicinity of the aircraft, allowing the aircraft to automatically decelerate and stop according to its behavior and the surrounding conditions.

Photo: Sony

Photo: Sony

Camera and lens variations

Users have the flexibility to choose the right Alpha system for their desired application to expand their filmmaking horizons. The Airpeak S1 is compatible with a wide range of camera bodies including:

  • Alpha 7S series and FX3 for high descriptive capability with suppressed noise
  • Alpha 7R series for ultra-high definition
  • Alpha 9 series and others for distortion-free images

The Alpha 1, which can shoot footage in 8K, is also compatible.

The drone includes Airpeak Flight, an iOS- and iPadOS-compatible application that integrates the aircraft, transmitter, camera and gimbal, allowing the operator to monitor status information such as flight distance and remaining battery power, and change various operations and settings on the screen.

Airpeak S1 also includes a dual-operation mode so that one user can operate the drone while another user can operate the gimbal and camera simultaneously while checking the same image, even in complicated scenes. The first-person view camera, which can be tilt-operated from the remote controller, is mounted on the nose of the aircraft and is useful for the operator to check the direction of the aircraft and the direction of travel.

Photo: Sony

Photo: Sony

Airspeak Base

The new drone includes “Airpeak Base,” a web application that allows the operator to manage equipment, create flight plans, and manage flight logs. In the equipment management, information on the equipment used is automatically listed and managed based on the flight log. This allows the operator to check the condition of the aircraft before going to the field, minimizing on-set issues.

With Airpeak Base, the operator can create advanced flight plans and automatically fly the aircraft along the same course repeatedly, as if the drone were on rails installed in the air. It is able to set the position (latitude, longitude and altitude) and speed of the aircraft along the timeline, and specify the orientation of the gimbal and the timing of video or still image shooting. It can also draw smooth curves on the map. Reproduction flight is an automatic flight function that reproduces the flight route, gimbal, and camera movements based on the flight logs that have been flown in the past.

All aircraft information, including logs, can be uploaded to the cloud via the mobile app Airpeak Flight. Airpeak Base allows users to check the status of the aircraft and can provide notifications if necessary. Users can manage the status of all managed aircraft in one place before flight. Past flight logs can be viewed on the logbook screen, and details such as in-flight errors can also be reviewed.

Sony Group will be exhibiting Airpeak S1 at Japan Drone 2021, a drone exhibition to be held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, June 14-16. In addition, Izumi Kawanishi, Senior Vice President, AI Robotics Business, Sony Group Corp. will provide the keynote speech on the morning of June 14.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.