You visit incredible places. You go on adventures. You want someone—or something—to capture them—and you—for posterity. But instead of reaching out with a selfie stick, you reach into a backpack... and toss a drone up into the air to film it all for you.
It’s the dream, and a startup called Lily is giving us our best glimpse at that dream yet in this extremely well-produced video.
A waterproof drone that can follow me while kayaking rapids, and take giant 360-degree selfies with my entire family in the picture—why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
The answer, unfortunately, is that they have, only nobody has managed to get the idea of a fully autonomous flying camera to actually work. There are all kinds of potential issues, like how a nice big camera drone is supposed to avoid crashing into objects without a human at the controls, and how to keep it reliably locked onto the person it’s supposed to track. Computer vision is still in its infancy, Wi-Fi can be pretty unreliable, and GPS isn’t accurate enough.
We’ve met up with Lily on two occasions now, and the company’s gracious founders have had a hell of a time showing us a prototype that just works. Their system sounds pretty cool—you place a simple remote on your body which broadcasts a signal that the drone can follow—and it did indeed follow us around, but it wasn’t able to keep the 1080p60 camera locked on us for long.
The prototype Lily requires a smartphone and a large Wi-Fi broadcasting box, but should evolve into the tiny remote on the left.
But I think someone will crack the code. It just makes so much damn sense to have a super-stable flying camera instead of holding one up with my arms.
Perhaps Lily will be the one. If you think so, you can pre-order one on the company’s website today for $500/£319. That’s half the $1,000/£638 it’ll cost in February when—the company claims—it’ll start shipping the product. That’s a big discount, but I’d wait and find out for sure. [Lily]