This is not your father’s Sony. My father’s Sony was an iconic 5″ tummy TV. Being a Mad Ave ad man, he also loved the print ad: “For waist sizes 38 to 46. For smaller tummies, buy the 4 inch set.”
Nor is this your Sony, familiar for VENICE and Alpha.
This is the Sony of Vision-s electric vehicles and Airpeak S1 drones. The sibilant letter “S” suggests something special.
Today, June 9, 2021, Sony Electronics Inc. announced the takeoff of their Airpeak S1 drone. Foreshadowing things to come, Sony calls it “an introductory model in the new Airpeak line.” Since the introductory price is $9,000, gimbal not included, the S1 is intended for the professional market or money-is-no object consumers. Why would anyone want one without a gimbal? Well, for industrial uses like deliveries, mapping, surveying, lifting, construction…
The Sony Airpeak S1 was also designed around carrying Full-Frame Sony Alpha series (a7, a9, a1, FX3) mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras. These cameras connect to the drone directly via HDMI for video and USB for start-stop and camera control.
Certainly other drones and other cameras do this. But this is one stop Sony shopping.
The S1 flies at a maximum speed of 55 mph and stays steady against headwinds and gusts up to 44.7 mph. Sony engineers explained: “Wind direction and velocity is constantly changing in the real world. Developing agile and responsive control functions is essential. The key to stable flight is the ESC (Electric Speed Controller) design that is both highly responsive to the environment and can maintain control under any condition.” Rotors are 17 inches long and powered by lightweight, high-performance brushless motors.
S1 also has obstacle detection, automatic flight control via sensing and safety measure provided by cloud management of the aircraft and flight information.
The remote controller comfortably cradles an iPad or iPhone and includes an iOS and iPadOS app to monitor the S1 aircraft, its transmitter, camera, and gimbal. The display shows and adjusts flight distance, remaining battery power of drone and camera, distance, altitude, speed, camera settings, Shutter, ISO, Aperture, and other settings.
You can also operate the Airpeak S1 in dual operation mode: one person to fly and operate the drone, another to control the gimbal and camera. Both are viewing the same image.
Here’s where the convergence of advanced electric cars and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) intersect. Sony Stereo cameras with Sony image sensors are installed in 5 locations (front, back, left, right, bottom) of the S1. A Sony Vision Sensing Processor handles camera data rapidly and at low power consumption. Proprietary algorithms accurately estimate the aircraft’s spatial position and orientation in real time, enabling stable flight even in environments where GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) reception may be hindered, such as indoors or under bridges. The Airpeak S1 is also equipped with a high-performance flight control system that integrates all sensor information such as IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), direction, barometric pressure and infrared ranging.
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 it to automatically decelerate.
S1 includes Airpeak Base, a web application to manage and check equipment, create flight plans, and handle flight logs. Flight plans automatically fly the aircraft along the same course repeatedly, like a dolly in the sky. You can set the position (latitude, longitude and altitude), speed along the timeline, orientation of the gimbal and the timing of still or video capture. You can also navigate by drawing smooth curves on a map. Reproduction flight is an automatic function that guides 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 with the Airpeak Flight mobile app.
Pricing and Availability
The new Sony Airpeak S1 suggested retail price will be approximately $9,000.00 when it ships in Fall 2021. It comes with 2 pairs of propellers, the remote controller, 2 batteries and a battery charger. The Gremsy gimbal is made by specifically for the Airpeak S1 and will be sold separately. Airpeak S1 is made in Japan.
Sony Group will be exhibiting Airpeak S1 at Japan Drone 2021, a drone exhibition planned at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan from June 14-16, 2021. This is a familiar place to attendees of InterBEE. Izumi Kawanishi, Sony Senior Vice President, AI Robotics Business, will give the keynote speech on the morning of June 14, 2021.
Camera Car and Aerial Unit
The Vision-s vehicle seems to be festooned with cameras galore, all the better to record and display on dash your road trip from every conceivable angle. Since Sony makes the cameras, the sensors, the software, lenses, circuits, batteries and AI technology, all this seems to be a natural progression. I can imagine it won’t be long until someone will shoot an entire movie with a Sony S1 for everything in the air and a Sony Vision-s for every thing else that moves on the ground.