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Sony's new camera drone is here – and it costs $9,000

Sony Airpeak S1
(Image credit: Sony)

UPDATE: Just over two months after its release in Japan, the Sony Airpeak S1 drone has launched in the US with a pre-order price of $8,999 – approximately £6,756 / AU$12,595. 

The "world's smallest drone that can carry a full frame Alpha series mirrorless camera", the Sony Airpeak boasts a 22-minute flight time without a payload (reduced to 12 minutes with a Sony A7S III (opens in new tab) and Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM (opens in new tab)), and can fly in winds up to 44.7mph. Its landing gear retract so as not to obscure cameras, and it possesses Dual Operation Mode to independently control the aircraft and 2-axis gimbal. 

• Read more: Best camera drones (opens in new tab)

According to retailer B&H, the drone will start shipping on 24 December, so it won't arrive in time for Christmas. Pricing and shipping info for other regions hasn't yet been revealed but, now that the S1 has broken cover, a worldwide launch can't be too far off. 

Pre-order the Sony Airpeak S1 at B&H (US) (opens in new tab)

ORIGINAL STORY (23 Sep 2021): It’s been a long wait, but it looks like it’s nearly over: the Sony Airpeak S1, officially unveiled back in January 2021 and teased long before that, has started to show up at online retailers – and carries a price tag in the $10,000 region.

The big selling point of the Airpeak S1 is that it’s the first drone designed to enable users to take their existing photo setups to the skies. It’s capable of carrying a Sony Alpha 7 camera and lens, with a precise payload capacity of 2.5kg. Given that the Sony A7R IV (opens in new tab), as a representative example, weighs 665g body only, this provides a lot of flexibility in terms of loadout. For video users, Sony says the drone will also take the Sony FX3 (opens in new tab) cinema camera.

Drone cameras currently tend to rely on 1/2.3-inch and 1-inch sensors, so having full-frame cameras up in the sky has the scope to radically change the game of aerial photography and videography – though it will, of course, make it that much more gut-wrenching if you accidentally land the drone in your local lake.

Still, having this kind of imaging power in the air is probably going to be the USP that enables Sony to effectively compete with DJI in this sector, especially as this drone is going to be much more tempting for photographers and videographers who are already in Sony’s ecosystem. 

An in-situ glimpse at the Sony Airpeak S1 (Image credit: Sony)

The S1 is capable of fast maneuvering thanks to its high-powered brushless motors, with 0-50mph acceleration possible in just 3.5 seconds, and it’s even been seen withstanding 44mph winds (opens in new tab), which is more than most of us could manage. It’s operated via the AirPeak Flight remote controller, which can control the drone itself, the camera and the 3-axis gimbal, and is also compatible with iOS, with phone control possible via the Airpeak Flight.

It can achieve up to 22 minutes of flight time without payload, and approximately 12 minutes with. It also has a Vision Sensing System that can detect spatial position and orientation in real time, allowing the drone to compensate for camera shake. 

None of this is going to come cheap, though. The Sony Airpeak S1 has started to appear (opens in new tab) on Japanese websites available for pre-order, and in the US has also been listed on B&H Photo Video, (opens in new tab) (as spotted by (opens in new tab) Sony Alpha Rumors), albeit without a confirmed arrival date or an order link in the latter case. 

Still, the Sony Airpeak S1 is expected to cost ¥1,100,000 in Japan, which is approximately $9,985 / £7,265 / AU$13,675. However, if you’re prepared to drop that kind of cash, we have some good news – the Japanese press release estimates that shipping will start in late October (only slightly behind the September release that Sony originally promised).

Read more: 

Best DJI drones (opens in new tab)
Best drones for beginners (opens in new tab)
Best FPV drones (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.