Despite the whipping spring winds, the prototype of the Lily Camera is hovering steadily in place above my head in New York’s Central Park. The Lily looks a lot like other drones you can buy now, but this one has a special trick. As its name suggests, it’s really a camera that just happens to fly. By itself.
Developed for use by action sports enthusiasts — snowboarders, skateboarders, and the like — the Lily Camera lets you capture all of your best moves and stunts without needing someone else to pilot it.
To use the drone, you turn it on and it connects to a separate wrist-worn controller that doubles as a tracker.
You tell the drone to take off by pressing the controller’s Take Off button, or toss it into the air to have it automatically start hovering.
Follow the leader
The Lily Camera can then follow you around. I was genuinely impressed with how well the drone was able to keep up with me, despite my attempts to trick it by running in zigzag patterns. (If you don’t want the Lily Camera to follow you, you can have it hover and stay stationary while it records.)
All of the video captured by the Lily Camera’s front-mounted 12-megapixel camera is also streamed to your smartphone, so you can see what it sees. The drone does a great job of stabilizing video. Although the wind was relatively stiff during my demo with the drone, images remained steady.
The makers of the Lily Camera also addressed the issue of being unable to capture ground-level audio from a drone: Audio is recorded by the tracker.
But the Lily Camera’s coolest feature is how it lands. When you press the Land button in the Lily tracker, the drone will automatically fly to you. You can then reach out your hand, gently tap the bot’s underside, and it will instantly power down. It’s like calling your falcon back to you, except you don’t need to feed it a mouse afterward.
The Lily Camera’s optimal range is between 10 and 30 feet from its tracking device. The drone can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, so even if you’re a particularly fast skater, the Lily Camera shouldn’t have much trouble keeping up with you.
If, for some reason, the Lily Camera gets too far from you, it will automatically enter hover mode and stay put until it reconnects with your tracker.
The Lily Camera also offers a long battery life, lasting up to 20 minutes in the air. And like most modern quads, the Lily will land itself if you try to run down its battery.
The Lily Camera is available to pre-order today for $499 at www.lily.camera. The drone officially ships in February 2016 at a retail price of $999.