Generations before us have had lofty goals—being the first to fly, the first to walk on the Moon. A new challenge stands before us today: to capture the most extreme, most mind-blowingly awesome aerial selfie.
One new startup—the Lily camera drone—might have just put this elusive prize within our reach.
The Lily, a small drone camera with a satisfied expression, is being called “magic” by its supporters, partly because it’s considered so user-friendly. Most consumer drones have some sort of learning curve, from the software to the flight controls, which are not as easy as they seem. But Lily wants to be different. Once you’re ready to film, just throw the Lily in the air and it will follow you wherever you go (provided you’re not moving quicker than 25 mph), filming HD video of your most extreme stunts.
While there’s no guarantee that having an easy-to-use product will translate into commercial success, it definitely won’t hurt. (Think the iPad versus earlier tablet computers.) But Lily still has some kinks to work out.
On its YouTube launch video, Lily was asked if its gadget will be able to avoid objects it flies near:
At this moment, the Lily Camera does not have any obstacle avoidance capabilities (cost and design choice). We have found that most outdoor activities do not need obstacle avoidance because Lily can follow the user’s path. But again there are no guarantees that Lily will not hit anything while it is following you.
Lily costs roughly $500 during the pre-order period, but that price is going to jump to $1,000 after the period ends. That puts Lily on par with the latest offerings from DJI and 3D Robotics, both of which have more features—like live-streaming HD video—but perhaps a steeper learning curve for operators.
GoPro, the leader in the look-at-me-I’m-doing-something-extreme video market, is reportedly working on its own drone system. Its cameras are also used in some of DJI and 3DR’s drones. GoPro’s device is likely to cost around $1,000 too, and have similar features to its established competitors.
While there aren’t any official details on what GoPro’s drone will be able to do, presumably its developers are keeping a close eye on the market, and how features in other products—including Lily—are received.
Lily did not immediately respond to Quartz’ query on when it expects to ship its drones, but its announcement shows that the market for autonomous camera drones is starting to take off. Watch this airspace.