The consumer drone industry is increasingly positioning itself as a maker of flying cameras, not autonomous robots. The goal is a sort of self-aware GoPro that you will allow anyone to be their own aerial cinematographer. Today a startup called Lily is trying to move a step closer to that future with a drone that you can literally just toss into the air and then ignore, leaving it to pilot itself.
The Lily was created by Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow, who met while studying computer science and working at the UC Berkeley Robotics Laboratory. To follow its subject, it relies on a small GPS tracker that the user carries in their pocket or wears on their wrist, but the drone also incorporates computer vision technology that can recognize its owner and use algorithms to more precisely frame them within a scene. The tracking device also records audio that syncs with your video, something no other drone offers, as the rotors would typically drown out sound.
“Cameras right now are limited by the skill of the human operator. Most of the time that means non-professionals getting less than ideal shots,” says Bradlow. “With a flying camera, you can get amazing shots and angles regardless of who is using it.” For example, sensor data from the tracker can automatically trigger a slow mode or burst mode when it senses you going off a jump. It shoots in 1080p at 60 frames per second and captures 12 megapixel stills.