Sony announces the $9,000 professional drone it teased at CES

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Sony is now full unveiling of its Airpeak S1 drone, which it teased at CES 2021 in January. The announcement includes much more detail about the drone’s capabilities and features and reveals a $9,000 price tag for the drone without a gimbal or camera, all confirming the idea that this drone will be fully targeted at the professional video market.

The Airpeak with an A7S and a 24mm lens attached to the separately sold gimbal.
Image: Sony

The Airpeak S1 is built to work with Sony’s mirrorless cameras, including the A7S Mark III, FX3, or even the 8K-compatible Alpha 1. They attach to a special version of the Gremsy T3 gimbal designed specifically for the Airpeak and that you have to buy separately. With a camera, the drone has about 12 minutes of flight time (although it can reach 22 minutes without any charge). It’s also worth noting that the camera requires its own batteries – it is not powered by the drone.

Sony has already released a preview of the types of shots you can take with the drone, which you can see below.

One of the drone’s biggest selling points is its stability and wind resistance. According to Sony, it can hold steady in wind speeds of up to 74.7 miles per hour (that’s 20 m/s, double what DJI is quoting for the Inspire 2), and it has five sets of stereo cameras that allow the drone and an infrared rangefinder that would drone to stop before hitting obstacles and stay stable even without satellite reception. Sony even enlisted JAXA, the Japanese space agency, to help it out do some of the tests for the drone:

The Airpeak is fast too – it can do 0-50 (which is close to its top speed of 55.9 miles per hour) in 3.5 seconds. It’s worth noting, though, that this is without attachments of any kind – Sony didn’t say what kind of speed or acceleration can be achieved when the drone is flying a camera. That said, Sony showed me and other journalists a video of the drone doing figure eights in the air, which it executed with impressive speed and agility.

The drone can be controlled with just the included controller, but Sony has an app called Airpeak Flight to make things easier. The app is for iOS/iPadOS only for now, but you can control the camera and gimbal. The Airpeak can be operated by one person, but also allows for a dual-operator mode, where one person controls the flight and the other the camera. Sony says the controller’s range is still being tested.

The controller with an iPad running Airpeak Flight.
Image: Sony

While you won’t get a camera or gimbal for the $9,000 price of the Airpeak S1, it comes with two pairs of propellers, the controller, two batteries, and a charger. Sony expects to ship it in the fall and will offer a service plan to cover damage that could occur from crashes.

In light of all the legislation and controversy surrounding drones from China, Sony makes it clear that the Airpeak S1 is designed and made in Japan; it came up repeatedly in a press conference and again in the press release.