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Throw This Camera Drone in the Air and It Follows You


When Bradlow, the CTO and co-founder of Lily Robotics, gives the go sign, Nghia Ho, the company’s computer vision engineer, flings a drone straight up into the air. It rises, and then immediately begins to fall. For a split second, it appears as though this 3D-printed prototype with a camera attached is about to shatter into a thousand pieces. But just as the drone starts to descend, Lily’s four rotors flick on. The machine steadies itself in mid-air, then rises about twenty feet and hangs there, awaiting instructions.

Bradlow never once touched the controller, or his phone. That’s the whole point of Lily, the first product from Lily Robotics, a five-person company co-founded by a couple of recent Berkeley grads with funding from Silicon Valley heavy-hitters like Ron Conway. Lily is a self-flying drone that is always following you, following a certain set of commands. It follows a small circular tracker, which you can have in your pocket or on your boat. With one tap of the tracker, Lily can execute some nifty camera moves, all while staying focused on you. The camera inside, Bradlow says, is roughly equivalent to the GoPro Hero 3: It can shoot 1080p video, or 720p up to 120 frames per second—there’s some tech inside that will detect when you hit a jump while snowboarding and automatically kick the camera into slow-mo. It’ll also shoot 12-megapixel stills and it can make a cool 360-degree panorama. It can fly 25 miles per hour, is totally waterproof, lasts up to 20 minutes on a charge, and has range up to 100 feet. Bradlow says it could move faster and have more range, but the point isn’t to map agricultural landscapes—it’s to take pictures, or have the Lily chase you down the slopes while you carve some powder.

Stashed in: Drones!, drones, @davemorin

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It's like your own little drone buddy! Dave Morin is also a funder. 

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