On the sidelines of CES, Sony returns to the forefront and unveils a little more about its future drone, named Sony Airpeak. Timidly announced by the Japanese brand last November, the drone is primarily intended for professional use. It should be available next spring.
Video: Sony Airpeak
Airpeak, a future drone from Sony
In November 2020, Sony created a surprise by unveiling a drone project called Airpeak, centered around robotics and artificial intelligence. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), traditionally held in Las Vegas, Sony unveiled the first concrete details about its very first aircraft.
According to the first images made public by the brand, the Sony Airpeak is a quadricopter UAV with a cubic-shaped central body. Once in flight, the arms of the aircraft lift up to leave as much latitude as possible for image capture.
The Airpeak would be equipped with a 360-degree rotatable nacelle. In addition, it would be able to accommodate a hybrid from the Sony Alpha range – a Sony A7S III, for example. In addition, the Airpeak UAV would be equipped with a small additional camera, located at the front of the UAV (the details of which are still unknown), which could be used for navigation.
Two other sensors would also be present in a small bar underneath: these could be dedicated to obstacle detection. In this way, the Airpeak could be operated by two telepilots, one for navigation of the UAV, the other for framing.
According to its manufacturer, the Airpeak is “the smallest drone that can be equipped with a Sony Alpha housing. The aircraft must be able to “film dynamically and fly in a precise and stable manner. It aims to contribute to the world of entertainment and open up new possibilities for creative expression,” Sony also said.
In a second video, Sony shows the capabilities of its drone for professional aerial shootings:
In this video, we will note that the car filmed is none other than the Vision-S project, an electric and intelligent vehicle developed by Sony. Here is the presentation video, partly filmed with the new Sony Airpeak drone:
A launch in April?
According to the Japanese brand, this drone would represent the first phase of a larger project. The Airpeak, designed for image professionals (still or animated), could be available in spring 2021.
For the time being, the vast majority of the UAV’s technical details remain unknown. The size and weight of the aircraft, its maximum speed of flight, its autonomy… so many details that remain a mystery to this day.
However, the photos and videos unveiled by Sony allow us to get a small idea of this future aircraft. On the one hand, we notice the carbon fiber arms, ensuring better rigidity and lighter weight to the UAV.
On the other hand, there are almost no cables between the hybrid housing and the UAV nacelle. It is obvious that Sony is banking on perfect integration between the UAV and the photo/video box, to facilitate the capture of excellent quality aerial images thanks to a full-format hybrid or APS-C sensor. Finally, the Airpeak should be able to fly at very low temperatures – something that some professional UAVs are already capable of, such as the DJI Inspire 2. Also noteworthy is the presence of two sizeable rechargeable batteries, which will not be too much to combine autonomy and nacelle management.
Sony, DJI's future competitor?
The irruption of Sony in the field of drones may seem surprising. Indeed, the UAV market is dominated by China’s DJI, which is in a quasi-hegemonic position with around 70% market share (followed by China’s Yuneec and France’s Parrot). Due to its design, the Airpeak would compete for head-on with DJI’s Inspire range of drones.
However, the arrival of the Airpeak project comes in a special context. Indeed, the United States is becoming more and more cautious with regard to certain Chinese companies. Huawei, and now DJI, have been placed on the Washington entity list. As a result, Sony could try to conquer the American drone market – following the example of Parrot with its Anafi USA.
For the moment, it is not known if Sony intends to produce other drones, this time for the general public. And, last but not least, we don’t know the price of this first drone signed by Sony. As a reminder, a DJI Inspire 2 drone equipped with a Zenmuse X7 pod (with APS-C sensor) is sold at $7799. It is therefore reasonable to expect that the Sony Airpeak is rather expensive.