Sorry selfie sticks, you’ve got nothing on this drone.
Tired of taking selfies with your smartphone or recording memorable occasions with a handheld video camera? As the quest for using quadcopters to capture beautiful bird’s-eye view shots continues, one Menlo Park-based startup has debuted a rather impressive throw-and-shoot drone that flies itself — no remote controls! While UAVs have been used by Hollywood directors and tourism groups to obtain otherwise unobtainable scenes, it’s only a matter of time before consumers adopt these reasonably-priced gadgets as well. And Lily Robotics hopes to be the company that spearheads that movement.
Initiated with a throw in the air by a user with a strapped on GPS wristband, the aptly named Lily Camera automatically follows its owner like a loyal dog, recording stunning footage and high definition images while hovering in place at heights of 10 to 30 feet and flying at speeds up to 25 mph. The camera, completely engineered for rugged aerial and water environments, is built for outdoor sports enthusiasts and those looking for a simple, fun way to share their everyday activities. After all, it’s not too far-fetched to envision a family purchasing a drone to snap photos at picnics and get-togethers so no one has to be left out by holding the camera.
“Point-and-shoot devices, action cameras, camcorders, and DSLRs have served us well on the ground and attached to drones, but we’ve always wanted a richer, more contextual point-of-view,” explained Antoine Balaresque, Lily co-founder and CEO. “Lily automatically creates exciting close range photos and wide, cinematic shots previously reserved for professional filmmakers.”
Leveraging advanced computer vision algorithms, this new drone intelligently tracks its user, following every move and so much more. With autonomous flight, Lily expands creative shooting opportunities well beyond handheld and action cameras with a single point-of-view. The flying apparatus is equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer and GPS, as well as front and bottom-facing high-def cameras capable of 1080p at 60 fps and 720p with 120 fps slow motion footage, or 12-megapixel still photos.
As eluded to above, Lily requires connects to a tiny tracking device via Wi-Fi that can be easily slipped into a pocket or adorned on a wrist, which the drone uses to relay position, distance and speed information to the built-in camera. This unit boasts a few control buttons (to launch/land, up/down and angle in relation to the operator), an accelerometer, a barometer, GPS, a vibration motor, as well as a USB port for easy charging. It even has a microphone for picking up nearby sounds.
“We want to be in the GoPro space, not the drone space,” Balaresque recently told Forbes. “We don’t see this as a drone. This is robotics technology applied to cameras… To me, a drone is a military device that just flies around and shoots people. The only thing I see with Lily is camera that flies. I guess it’s a matter of wording.”
With these aspirations, its creators have designed the disc-shaped drone to be entirely waterproof (no need to fear use around pools and ponds) and portable (bring it anywhere), while its Lithium-Ion battery allows it to last for about 20 minutes before needing to be recharged. Lily is also programmable so that users can receive directions through its tracking device or accompanying mobile app.
Intrigued? Fly over its official page to find out more. Pre-orders for the Lily Camera are now underway at $499, with shipment slated for February 2016. At that time, the price tag will rise to $999.