CES 2021 is virtual this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting (well at least if you’re a drone fan). In fact, one announcement in particular sort of shocked the drone industry: the Sony Airpeak drone.
As part of this week’s CES 2021, Sony shared a couple images, a video and a few details around its new Airpeak drone.
The Sony Airpeak drone will target professional photography and video production, and is expected to be capable of carrying the company’s Alpha mirrorless cameras.
Sony says its Airpeak drone will be “capable of dynamic filming and precise, stable flight, and aims to contribute to the world of entertainment while also pursuing new possibilities for creative expression.”
News that Sony was developing its own drone has been quietly discussed for a few months now. Sony in November 2020 announced a new project for drones in the field of AI robotics, which was also called Airpeak. At the time, Sony said it would launch its project in spring of 2021. But it looks like news came early, as we already have a limited glimpse of what to expect – and it’s only January.
Still, the information that Sony announced at CES 2021 was exactly that – limited. Key details like pricing, and other specs like flight time, exact launch date and software integration, have not yet been announced.
Sony did launch a 2-minute hype video showing the drone in action, as well as clips taken from the drone. Watch it here:
As far as design goes, the Sony Airpeak drone somewhat resembles the Yuneec Typhoon H — perhaps because of that retractable landing gear. Retractable landing gear is useful for making sure the landing gear doesn’t accidentally appear in your shot).
Sony has said that not only to drones create “previously unseen images,” which is relevant to many of its customers — photographers — but also recognizes how drones are important to workflow efficiency and energy savings in the industrial sector. Sony has said it is especially focusing on imaging and sensing technology, as well as 3R technologies (Reality, Real-time and Remote).
It’ll certainly see how the launch of the Sony Airpeak drone plays out in a landscape dominated by Chinese drone maker DJI.
Many camera makers, most notably GoPro, have made their own attempts to build their own drone — and have failed. Besides major delays, the GoPro Karma drone experienced a major recall because they were falling from the sky before ceasing production of its Karma drone completely. Other once-promising drone competitors that built drones aimed at photographers, like 3D Robotics, failed too. The 3DR Iris launched to largely negative reviews, and was called intimidating and awkward. Its younger sibling, the Solo, suffered from missed product deadlines and buggy components. 3D Robotics has since ceased production of consumer drones.
Some recent drone companies are proving worthy competition against DJI, such as Skydio. But even still, DJI’s market share is nearly 70%, making it tough for any company to compete — even an established business like Sony.
One more potential opportunity for Sony to take a stronghold on DJI: their drone launch comes just a few weeks after the US slapped new trade restrictions on DJI. While not an outright ban on DJI drones, the company’s position on a U.S. trade backlist could make it more complicated for DJI to produce drones.
And another glimmer of hope for Sony: the fans seem largely excited about it.