For some time I’ve wanted a portable, throw-in-the-air-and-forget tag-along drone to take remote video and photographs from above. Lily looks like it could finally fulfill that role.
Lily is an offshoot of an interesting split that’s happening right now in prosumer drones. Like most technologies, UAVs started in the military and slowly made their way into the hands of the public. The civilian enthusiasts that used them were often pioneers in the application of drone technology, and very good fliers; they’re also the ones most likely to look in disdain at the cheap RC knockoffs solid in big box stores, sold to people that use them for a weekend before storing them in a closet (or worse, lose them due to foolish behaviour).
Right now, there are several companies competing to make the next big switch: to become the “Apple” of the drone consumer market, with products that are well designed, low maintenance, and easy to operate. DJI is probably the best known of these, but Lily is another.
Lily takes the “set and forget” aspect of such drones even further: the user wears a wristwatch-sized location device, and simply throws the man-portable Lily into the air. For 20 minutes, the drone follows the operator with a high-resolution camera from five to 50 feet above their head, and up to 200 feet away. Waterproof, the drone can be used by surfers and skiers, in all weather conditions, operating against a 20 mph wind.
While it will never replace a drone flown by an experienced operator, I can think of dozens of shots where Lily could be used. It’s ideal for lone photographers like myself, especially for taking action sequences without a crew or camera operator.
On a far larger scale, there’s a strong debate to be had as to whether the society goal of “a drone in everyone’s pocket” is a worthwhile one to persue. I can absolutely see a time when people being surrounded by a small fleet of nano-drones will not be seen as unusual in the slightest. Conjecture on just what that society will be like I shall leave for a future article.
Lily is being pre-sold for $499 US until June 15, with delivery expected in February 2016; full retail price is expected to be $999.