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I, Camera: Meet Lily, the Everyman’s Autopiloting Follow Cam Drone

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Lily camera with tracking device

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.

Lily camera's tracking device in wrist case

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.

Lily camera, still shot from camera
Photo by Lily

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.

Lily camera, dimensions

Specifications:
Body: black polycarbonate and brushed aluminum.
Tracking device body: polycarbonate
Dimensions: 10.29” x 10.29” x 3.22”
Weight: 2.8lbs.
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!

lily.camera

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17 Comments
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Ventruck
Ventruck
7 years ago

I like how it has a face

Will
Will
7 years ago

This is awesome, can’t wait to see future evolutions of it…. Just a pity it doesn’t have obstacle avoidance

Heffe
Heffe
7 years ago

Cool.

maddogeco
7 years ago

What happens is you out run it? does it just hover or land? or like like me when i get dropped crack it and go home?

John
John
7 years ago

Watch this before pre-ordering:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td5fZhGNz9M

You’re welcome.

Peter
Peter
7 years ago

Very nice concept, however there are two (what I consider to be deal breaking) issues:

1. Non-replaceable battery. When you run out of juice, you need to get home to charge it. Why couldn’t they design it with a removable battery?

2. No obstacle avoidance. Kind of limits the use for MTB. It would have been cool if there was a mode that made it follow the exact path of the tracking device.

Keith D
Keith D
7 years ago

I found this unit the other day. It is a much more polished attempt at this kind of device.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/108283504/c-mi-the-first-all-in-one-camera-drone-by-rocket-s

nightfend
7 years ago

Why do I get the feeling that in the future everyone will have little drones following them around taking social media images of themselves. I must be getting old as this sounds awful.

Trail Dog
Trail Dog
7 years ago

One more reason not to buy a lift ticket next winter- a swarm of giant robo-bees!

Matthew
Matthew
7 years ago

What happens when there are 20 of these things in the air at a ski resort? It’s only a matter of time before you are charged extra or have to have a permit to have one of these in the air. It’s an awesome design an idea, but the industry is still so new and quickly growing.

Anthony
Anthony
7 years ago

Awesome now instead of focusing on the trail I’ll have to worry about Lily 🙂

Seriously though pretty cool tech and I’m sure advancements will come quick like obstacle avoidance and can’t lose me in the woods and replaceable battery packs etc etc

James S
James S
7 years ago

Aren’t people “obstacles” to avoid? What happens when these stupid things run right into your face and cause you to crash?

Bert Sawicki
Bert Sawicki
7 years ago

@matthew…..the resorts will start renting them if they are smart

Magnetic Wheel Co.
7 years ago

Even though the techno music almost made me barf, I’ll take one.

Linc
Linc
7 years ago

Top speed of 25 mph. This is not fast enough to give a totally pro looking “helicopter” video for cat 4 crits, which is what I would want to buy this for.

Pynchonite
7 years ago

This would be interesting for low(?)-budget filmmakers. However, if I saw a lot of these on the Wasatch Crest trail, for instance, I might be tempted to bring a slingshot with me. I feel like a curmudgeon railing against bikes on their favorite trail, but it can’t be good for kids/young adults/Freds to get used to being constantly monitored.

AdventuresAnonymous
AdventuresAnonymous
7 years ago

Slingshot? How about a shotgun? Clay pigeons are so 2012…

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