It wasn’t long ago we started seeing shots in action sports movies filmed by drones that were automatically following athletes, which wasn’t too shocking as budgets have also taken to the sky for top-tier action sports films. It is a bit surprising to say that this novelty is already within reach of the general public.
Meet Lily, the world’s first self-piloting follow cam drone. With the tracking device on your body you simply hit the on switch, toss Lily into the air and it fires up its propellers, finds its balance and starts filming you. When it’s time to come down, Lily lands gently in your hand.
The lily project started in 2013 in the basement of a robotics lab at UC Berkeley. Now with funding secured and a team of five designers and engineers assembled, Lily is ready for production….
Lily is designed to fly within a certain range of the tracking device you carry. Its maximum altitude is 50ft above your head, and the minimum is 5ft overhead. Lily will travel up to 100ft away from you, but not get within 5ft. Its maximum speed is 25mph.
Lily is capable of performing a number of preset shots- It can follow you, fly upwards for a vertical zoom-out, fly alongside, follow from behind, lead from in front, or do an overhead loop all while keeping its eyes on the prize- you.
The tracking device also acts as a controller for Lily. At the press of a button, the user can select different ‘Lily shots’, record audio (from a microphone on the tracking device), or shoot still shots. The tracking device vibrates to notify you that Lily’s battery is getting low. If you don’t command it to land, the camera will land itself before running dry.
Lily has a waterproof sealed body and insulated motors, and it floats for safe takeoffs and landings from water. That said, the company does not recommend spinning the motors while submersed. The tracking device is only water resistant, but the included wrist case for it is waterproof.
It is important to note that Lily does not have any object avoidance capabilities, so it is intended for use in open air zones. If you notice Lily heading towards trouble, you can stop it in its tracks by hitting a button on the tracking device. Lily can safely handle winds of up to 15mph. If Lily loses track of you, it will hover in place and try to recover your signal. Once it finds you, it automatically goes back into whatever mode it was previously in.
The camera itself is a fixed focus unit that shoots a 94 degree field of view. That might sound narrow compared to a fisheyed GoPro, but remember Lily films you from much further away. The camera features image stabilization, and digital gimballing- in layman’s terms, Lily crops down the image and keeps the area of the video that contains you.
The camera’s built in lithium ion battery allows for fly time of 20 minutes, and charges in 2 about hours. An indicator on the tracking device or in the companion app displays the battery life. In their pursuit of waterproofing, the designers decided to go with a non-replaceable battery. The tracking device also uses a built in battery with 4 hours of life per charge.
Lily’s companion app allows users to change camera settings, create custom shots, edit and share content, and monitor battery life on their Android or iOS smartphones. Lily can also stream live video to your phone for previewing or framing shots.
Body: black polycarbonate and brushed aluminum.
Tracking device body: polycarbonate
Dimensions: 10.29” x 10.29” x 3.22”
Tracking device dimensions: 2.37” x 0.75”
Tracking device weight: 75g.
Lily’s sensors: accelerometer, three-axis Gyro, magnetometer, barometer, GPS.
Tracking device sensors: accelerometer, barometer, GPS.
Video: 1080p60 or 720p120 slo-mo
Still photos: 12mp
Tracking cameras- one front and one bottom.
Storage: Micro SD- 4gb card included
File format: mp4
Lily is now available online. The pre-order price is $499 USD until June 15th, after which it will increase up to an eventual MSRP of $999. The first production units will begin shipping in February 2016, which gives you lots of time to think of cool things to do with it!