In 1946, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita opened an electronics company in the Nihonbashi region of Tokyo. After success with building Japan’s first tape recorder, the Type-G, it was time to expand. Inspired by the American term “sonny boy” that referred to young, smart, successful men, they named their company Sony. Ibuka and Morita’s humble yet ambitious beginnings have translated into one of the largest electronic and entertainment companies. Sony is the number one video game console manufacturer and the number two video game manufacturer in the world. They represent the second largest record company and fifth largest television maker. When it comes to small personal electronics like cameras, Sony has always been on the cutting edge of affordable technology. Surprisingly, with the recent boom in photography drones, Sony has been absent from the market, but that’s all about to change.
On November 8, 2020, 74 years after the company was founded, Sony announced that they were ready to enter the drone game with a new brand called Airpeak. As described on their website, “Airpeak will support the creativity of video creators to the fullest extent possible, aiming to contribute to the further development of the entertainment industry as well as to improved efficiency and savings in various industries. Airpeak will also promote this project to enable drone-use with the highest level of safety and reliability in the environments where this has been difficult in the past.” Sony goes on to describe Airpeak as a way to elevate creativity by, “Combining our imaging and sensing technological expertise and AI Robotics, we open the skies into an infinite creative playground – one with unprecedented freedom. Let us lift you to never-reached creative experience by unleashing all constraints and barriers.” But beyond that, Sony has been very tight-lipped about the drone project.
In fact, the information that Sony has released is more conflictory than anything else. In one short press release, Sony eludes to creating a drone that will enable industry efficiency as well as a drone to foster individual artistic creativity. Are they making more than one drone format? Will it be a drone available for off the shelf consumer use, or a professional drone that needs to be operated by a licensed pilot? Along with the press release is a 15 second video of what appears to be a bladeless rotor spinning, nothing more. About a year ago, speculation of a Sony drone arose when the company was granted a patent for a drone design, but the information is still vague.
Based on the images in the patent sketches, there is no way to tell if Sony’s drone is to be sized as a large professional drone or a compact off the shelf drone. The drawings show 2 models…a flat, narrow, rectangular drone and square drone. Both drones have rotors that fold into the drone’s body. The rectangular drone has 4 rotors, one per corner, and the square drone has 8 rotors. Each corner of the square drone has a set of 2 staggered retractable rotors. The illustrations go on to show how the drone’s camera has similar photography capabilities as some of their other top of the line cameras. The drawings also show that the drone, and all of its functions, can be controlled through an app on a tablet or smartphone.
For consumers who are already fans of Sony cameras, this new drone could be of great interest to them. However, as GoPro’s drone failure has proven, just because you make good cameras doesn’t mean you can make a great drone. What is interesting is that Sony’s entrance into the drone market could definitely amp up the competition with drone giant DJI. Sony is a highly respected name when it comes to electronics. In the United States, where the question as to the security of Chinese made drones has arisen, one from a trusted Japanese brand could become a big success. Airpeak is scheduled to be available in the spring of 2021, and Sony promises to release more information before then.