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Tech of the Week: It’s not a bird, it’s not a drone, look … it’s a flying camera!

All you have to do is throw it in the air. There are controls, but they’re not important. What is important, however, is the fact that you don’t have to do anything but focus on whatever it is you’re doing, and the Lily Camera will take care of itself.

It’ll even start recognising my not-so-pretty face, given enough time.

California-based startup firm Lily Robotics, started by Berkley graduates Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow, 23 and 22, respectively, is the company behind the project. Taking the tech start-up tradition to form, they started in a basement, and the first version of Lily was built using a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino.

Now, having raised $1 million in two rounds of funding, they’re out to revolutionise the camera-drone industry.

Coined the “first throw-and-shoot camera”, the Lily Camera does exactly that – toss it in the air, four propellers that provide thrust and directional vectoring start spinning, and the unit will start following – and filming – its owner without a controller in sight.

Grabbing video and high-definition images while hovering in place or flying up to 40km/h, at a maximum altitude of 15 meters above and 30 meters behind or infront, Lily is always perfectly positioned to take a shot of its owner in all their death-defying adventure-sports glory.

Shooting at 1080p HD video at 60fps, or 720p at 120fps, as well as slo-mo at 720p, the camera still retains 12MP resolution for static images. The tracking device, which is strapped on to your wrist, has a microphone that can record high quality sound. The best part is that the video and audio is automatically synced, with a live low-resolution version that’s streamed to a companion app.

The genius of the device is in the tracker, and the proprietary computer vision algorithm behind it.  It holds an accelerometer, barometer, GPS, vibration motor, as well as the previously mentioned microphone. Tap on the tracking device (or the mobile app), and Lily can be directed to do panoramas, follow behind, lead in front or any of a variety of other movements.

Lily is able to follow, loop, zoom, hover and circle, and with about 20 minutes of flying time per battery charge, it’s more than enough for a couple runs down a mountain on a board or kayak. With a two-hour charge time, the tracking device will send pulse vibrations when running low on power.

The battery is a hermetically sealed unit and not removable to ensure it being waterproof, and the body, as well as motors, are also sealed and insulated. It can land safely in water and float there waiting for you to pick it up.

What Lily does is not new, and certainly not a serious competitor to professional rigs such as the DJI Phantom 3. It is, however, an extension of a point-and-shoot, going far beyond the capabilities of a selfie-stick.

It’s for the average consumer, even though it currently carries a hefty price point of US$499 (NZ$677.50) pre-order with an extra US$30 for international shipping, and USD$999 tag on official release day.

But the price for something like this will go down, and we suspect that in the near future, instead of selfie sticks, the “selfie-drone” will become all the rage.


The jack-of-all-trades minion who kind of does a bit of everything, he's also our former resident geek and Reddit fiend. He's now disappeared off somewhere in to the Matrix, but every now and then he resurfaces for a random guest article.

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