For aerial photography, the S1 quadcopter uses an external full-frame camera from Sony&s professional Alpha repertoire, such as the new Alpha 1, an Alpha 7S/ or 7R, a Alpha 9 or the FX3, which is, after all, closely related to the Sony Alpha 7S III.
The gimbal to be used is a version of the Gremsy T3 gimbal specifically adapted to the Airpeak S1, the T3 for Airpeak (GBLT3), which will be offered by Sony at the same time as the S1. Compatible with the Airpeak S1 are selected E-mount prime lenses - but Sony has not yet announced which ones exactly.
Gremsy T3 for Airpeak Gimbal
. The technical specs are remarkable - for example, the S1 can reach a top speed of around 90 km/h (35 mph) despite its heavy weight (albeit without the camera and gimbal) and can withstand strong crosswinds of up to 20 m/s (70 km/h) (as can be seen in the following video), thus still delivering stable footage. The following video demonstrates how the flight electronics keep the S1 in place even in a strong crosswind:
The Airpeak has two removable landing skids that fold up in flight to avoid blocking the camera&s downward view. Also removable (e.g. for transport or replacement) are the propellers.
Weight, payload and flight time
. When it comes to weight and flight time, the advantages and disadvantages of the external camera/gimbal concept become apparent: on the one hand, an external camera is practical because an already existing, high-quality camera including lenses can be used; on the other hand, of course, compared to a dedicated drone camera integrated into the gimbal, this comes at a heavy cost in terms of weight and thus flight time.
Sony Airpeak S1
Thus, the flight time strongly depends on the payload (camera plus lens plus gimbal) - without additional weight it is a maximum of 22 minutes, with a heavy payload like a Sony Alpha 7S III including FE 24mm F1.4 GM lens and T3 gimbal it is still 12 minutes. However, due to the hot-swappable battery, the interruption in flight time for replacing the power supply is relatively short.
According to Sony, the maximum payload is 2.5kg - since the Gremsy T3 gimbal weighs 1.2kg, the camera including lens may weigh a maximum of 1.3kg. The S1 itself weighs around 3.1kg without batteries, and the maximum launch weight is around 7kg.
Remote control and flight intelligence
. To automatically avoid obstacles or stop the flight in case of danger, several 3D cameras and proximity sensors developed by Sony are integrated on the drone (three on the front, two on the back, one on top and two on each side) from whose data a 3D model of the environment is made. This also enables precise flight without GPS data, for example indoors.
The Airpeak S1, the gimbal and the camera are controlled by means of the (optional) RCR-VH1 controller, which has four freely assignable buttons and also takes care of transmitting the live images and can output them to an external monitor via HDMI.
RCR-VH1 remote control with iPad
Using two RCR-VH1 controllers, professional setups can be realized via dual operation mode, i.e. the drone cameraman can thus concentrate entirely on capturing images using the Sony Alpha camera, which can film freely in all directions via gimbal while the pilot takes control of the drone using the FPV camera mounted on integrated, a 2-axis gimbal. The maximum range of the 2.4 GHz remote control including image transmission is around 2 kilometers.
Airpeak Flight App
A smartphone/tablet serves as the screen for the controller and brain, which can be used to control the drone, camera and gimbal during flight by means of the "Airpeak Flight" app - unfortunately only available for iPadOS/iOS version 14 or higher. &Airpeak Flight& is fully compatible with Alpha full-frame mirrorless cameras and allows changing camera settings on the fly. The app can be used with both manual and automated flight modes. Displayed on the screen can be images from the Sony Alpha camera as well as the fixed FPV camera.
Via "Airpeak Base" web app, drone projects are organized - from detailed flight planning using different modes, to organizing flight logs downloadable from the drone, to checking equipment status and usage. Interesting is the "Repeat Flight Mode", which allows the exact re-flying of a one flight route from the log, including gimbal and camera movement while manual control is active, allowing the pilot to optimize the route or change the angle of the gimbal during the flight.
The Airpeak S1 is tightly integrated with the controller and web app via the Airpeak Plus cloud service. Status information from multiple Airpeak drones can be automatically uploaded to the cloud and reviewed for optimal flight preparation and planning. Since Sony&s customer support for the Airpeak S1 is coordinated with the cloud, the flight logs can also be used to locate and troubleshoot problems.
The Airpeak Plus service is a subscription service that can be used to access the full functionality of the Airpeak Base web app, as well as the cloud storage service. Sony plans to announce details (costs, services) about the Airpeak Plus service in the near future.
Price and availability of the Sony Airpeak S1
. The Airpeak S1 including two propeller sets, a controller, two batteries including charger should be available in the fall of 2021 at a price of around ,000 - but to be ready to turn or fly, the T3 gimbal (price probably around 2,000 euros), possibly a second controller (for dual operation mode) and of course an Alpha camera including optics will be added.
Sony is serious about entering the pro drone market, as evidenced by the large investment it has made in such a completely new system for the company: the development of the appropriate hardware and suitable software, which includes not only the apps, but also its own cloud for professional management of Airpeak drones.
Sony is counting on the many filmmakers (and photographers) who already use Sony Alpha cameras for the success of the Airpeak S1 - which is possibly only the first model in a whole series of Airpeak models - and hopes that they will also prefer to use a system that is completely tailored to their camera when shooting with drones. more infos at bei electronics.sony.com