You’d be surprised to see that after Henry Bradlow, co-founder of Lily Robotics, threw the drone in the air, he didn’t touch any controller, be it a smartphone or a remote. For a second, the small drone seems to take a descending route, and viewers fear it will crash to hundreds of pieces.
Instead, four little rotors turn on and help the mini-machine steady itself in the air, which then becomes still, awaiting commands. Pleased with his demo, Bradlow explains the audience the secret of the Lily drone, the first creation of Lily Robotics.
It’s possible the name doesn’t ring any bells for you, and for good reason, as the five-person company is only at the beginning, recently founded by two Berkeley grads. Even so, their creativity is well-funded by some big names from Silicon Valley, such as Ron Conway.
Lily is a smart self-flying camera designed to always follow the person carrying the tracker. It can respond to a number of commands, which are given by lightly tapping the tracker – its camera moves are rather neat while the focus stays on you.
The attached camera rises to the level of a GoPro Hero 3: 720p or 1080p video quality with special features safely tucked inside the drone. For example, it can detect when you do a trick on your snowboard, such as jumping, a move which will automatically trigger the slow-motion filming.
Its stills are shot in 12-megapixel quality, and the 360-degree panorama is absolutely stunning. The drone speeds up to 25 mph, goes as high as 100 feet and it is completely waterproof. Battery life is only 20 minutes with each charging due to the high quality it shoots in.
According to Bradlow, the team could’ve made the range wider or power it to fly faster, but it would defeat the purpose of following and shooting pictures and videos of humans, not taking great aerial agricultural panoramas.
Drone or camera?
It has the shape and qualities of drone, for sure, but it is mainly designed to work as a flying camera, following your tracker as a cute little puppy – but in the air. But it’s more like a really expensive puppy, as pre-orders rise to $499; if you’ll buy it from the shelves, Lily will go up to $999.
Default settings can be changed from either the smartphone app that comes with the drone or the small tracker/controller – but you don’t have to be very tech savvy in order to make it do what you want it to do.
In case you were wondering, the camera doesn’t have a manual mode, as it only works on auto-pilot; but that shouldn’t discourage any enthusiasts who want to try it not as a futuristic drone, but like a very smart camera.
A bit of a fixer-upper
The first prototype that Bradlow used for the demo in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park was really bulky, and it needs improvement. Its creators are working on making Lily so small and practical that you can carry it in your pocket; whenever you feel like shooting a video or taking a picture, Lily would be right there next to your phone
The hardware also needs some fixing as the height sensors were temporarily screw over, so Lily kept shooting a video of grass a few inches off the ground. One feature they most assuredly will need to take care of is the companion app, which is merely a bunch of HTML buttons on a website in the present.
But without a doubt, Lily is in functioning state: hold it up, lightly tap Take Off (or throw it in the air) and the little drone will stabilize and silently hover over you.
When pressing Follow via the app, Lily chases the tracker carrier, whether it is in the pocket or hand held. Hit Spiral and Lily will make a graceful dance in spirals and circles around you while taking a video.
The beauty of Lily is that it can also sync with your smartphone and stream the video in real time. Demo videos looked rather pro, better than a hand held camera.
Lily is not trying to compete with DJI’s drones or innovate and advance the future of 3D Robotics. It’s merely a simple yet fun camera, and in a couple of years, you will even get it at a decent price. More than anything, Lily can take pictures selfie sticks couldn’t even begin imagining.
Image Source: Berkley Byte