Sony’s mirrorless Alpha series cameras have become hugely popular filmmaking tools, thanks in large part to the company’s excellent sensors. At this year’s CES, Sony announced it’s starting up a drone business specifically to work with Alpha cameras, and it promises to be absolutely Airpeak.
Full-frame bodies and lenses are big, heavy and bulky payloads for a drone to carry about, but Sony’s goal with Airpeak is to keep the airframe as small, portable and lightweight as is practical, so it doesn’t take up too much room in the van.
The prototype device appears a solid 2 feet (60 cm) across diagonally, with four large props on carbon fiber arms, a beefy body capable of accepting two chunky battery packs, and long carbon legs to stand on, which fold up out of the way once you’re airborne and sit slightly above the horizontal, neatly offering a kind of bumper should you run into something while moving sideways.
A big ol’ adjustable camera gimbal hangs underneath, ready to accept and stabilize your camera body and lens. You’ll have to balance it, like any camera gimbal that’s not an all-in-one, and it’ll be interesting to see how big a lens it’ll handle. The drone has its own cameras as well; stereo cameras dotted about the place, presumably for positioning and perhaps obstacle avoidance, and another tiltable forward-facing camera for the pilot.
The camera functions will thus, we assume, be relegated to a separate controller, and the drone should be capable of separate visual and control links for a pilot and a camera operator, making this a two-person job to fly.
There are certainly opportunities to be had, particularly since the United States government has added China’s DJI to its “economic blacklist.” Sony has extensive experience across a wide range of electronics, and claims it will be bringing its AI and robotics expertise to bear on the Airpeak project. No details are available on the new division’s first products as yet, but Sony is looking to work with professional aerial cinema and photography teams to develop its offerings for the pro market.
You can see the Airpeak prototype in action in the video below.
Airpeak | Aerial Shooting of VISION-S Road Test