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A.I. In the Sky: The Lily Drone

Posted by: on Jan 28, 2016 | No Comments

You’ve seen them on Instagram, Twitter, and even on news sites: those impossible photos and videos, which used to be the privilege of professionals, showing amateur athletes perfecting their skills. Sometimes they show incredible stunts, other times incredible stupidity, but they all share one common trait – they were taken from an angle that simply was not possible without a professional photographer five years ago.

Some, like GeekWire, have even gone so far to dub these personal machines “selfie drones.”

However, until recently these videos still needed a pilot to drive the drone, which means that the person who wishes to be recorded must bring a friend along who does not want to participate in the activity. This can be impractical for a number of situations – from solitary activities to groups of friends in which every member is excited about the activity.

Follow the Leader

Enter, the Lily Drone, brainchild of two UC Berkeley students, Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow. This drone isn’t driven – it follows you on it’s own. Or more specifically, it follows a tag you keep on your person.

As shown in the demo video, you simply throw Lily into the air, activate your tracker tag, and the drone will take up to 20 minutes of video. The user can set it to either follow or lead, and the image quality is absolutely spectacular for an amateur tool – 1080 HD videos at 60fps, fully slo-mo capable, and completely waterproof. The whole thing weighs in at under 3 pounds, and can fit easily in a backpack. The main drawback seems to be the battery life, as the device requires two hours to be at full power again. You may wonder, how is this being received? Are there people who aren’t into extreme sports willing to plunk down around a grand to have a Lily? The answer is yes. The company has not only raised $15 million in investment, but also recently reported that they’ve collected $34 million in pre-sales. They’ve also made some important hires, including Doug Chan, formerly of Nest Labs and VP of Operations at Dropcam, as well as a manufacturing team that collaborated on the Flip Video camera and Dropcam.

Implications

Lily-TrackingDevice-2k

Every so often, we have the pleasure of witnessing the first successful rendition of a category that will become a household necessity within the next few years. The Lily has the potential to be the iPhone of drones – by making the category accessible and attractive to average Joes and Janes, they open up an entire market that simply did not exist previously.

We’ll be watching the Lily closely, and keeping an eye out for the first knock-offs and improved competitor products.

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