Autonomous, flying selfies are here thanks to Lily Throw and Shoot camera

Lily is a new start-up company that hails from Menlo Park, California. With its new and innovative throw-and-shoot flying drone camera (simply named “Lily” or “Lily Camera”) it aims to change the landscape of visual documentation.

Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow co-founded their company, Lily, back in 2013 after they met while studying computer science and working together at the UC Berkeley Robotics Laboratory.

The company is currently funded by both private and institutional investors such as SV Angel, High Line Venture Partners, and Upside Partnerships.

The basic concept behind the Lily camera is that it will operate totally autonomously from the user and, as the Lily website says, it is as easy as “Ready. Throw. Go!”

“People want to be in the frame, in the picture,” says Lily CEO Balaresque. “People want to see themselves with their loves ones and that’s where the selfie trend kind of came from.”

The idea of the Lily cam is that you will be able to throw it in the air and then it will automatically start to follow you around (guided by a tracking device fitted to your wrist), being able to either hover or travel up to speeds of 25mph.

It is aimed at outdoor and adventure enthusiasts that wish to capture their experiences without having to divide their attention towards controlling the device but can just as easily be used to film less extreme occasions with a unique and creative approach.

“Point and shoot devices, action cameras camcorders, and DSLRs have served us well on the ground and attached to drones, but we’ve always wanted a richer, more contextual point-of-view,” Balaresque explains. “Lily automatically creates exciting close range photos and wide cinematic shots previously reserved for professional filmmakers.”


The Lily cam has a relatively small and light-weight design yet is sturdily engineered to handle tough aerial and water conditions.

Its body is sealed and the motors insulated, and it is able to safely land on water and float. It has an IP67 waterproof rating meaning that it can still operate as it is supposed for up to 1m beneath the water’s surface. It is also able to handle salt water although it is highly recommended to flush the motors after doing so.

It’s most favourable flying conditions are outdoors anywhere between 10 – 30ft and though it is advised not to be flown in wind speeds over 15mph, the creators said that it handled remarkably well in flight tests with 20mph wind speeds.

It is also important to note that Lily complies with the regulations set by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) guidelines.

The drone’s onboard camera has the ability to shoot 1080p HD videos at 60fps and take 720p slow-mo videos at 120fps, with the tracking device recording the sound. One downside for me though is that it can currently only capture 12mp stills, which is a tad below the standard quality of image capturing technology available at present.

It makes use of advanced computing algorithms and GPS to track the user and even has the ability to “train” itself to recognize the behaviour of said user.
The device is programmable and can either be controlled from the previously mentioned tracking device or a companion mobile app. Except for the standard follow function you can tell Lily to zoom, pan, loop, hover or fly out.

Presently the drone’s battery can muster a flight time of about 20 minutes while it takes around a lengthy two hours to charge, which is not ideal. One handy aspect is that as soon as the battery starts running low Lily will send out a pulse vibration to alert you. You can then either call it back to your palm or it will safely land itself just before the battery runs out.


The creators said that it took quite some trial and error to accomplish their goal and achieve their desired result, the flight tests and modifications predominantly happening in a Menlo Park Garage located next to a large, open field.

“We’re testing out every single day. We’ve made 50 iterations of our prototype at this point” says Lily co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Henry Bradlow. Barlesque adds that it has to be so simple that even his grandmother and younger sister should be able to use it.

Currently the Lily camera can be pre-ordered for around $500 USD (depending on shipping location), which will immediately be charged to your card. The company explains that it is expensive to create and manufacture a device like this and as a young start-up, using the revenue from pre-sales will enable them to deliver the best product and customer service possible.

Once the pre-order phase is complete the Lily camera will be sold for US$999, excluding tax and shipping costs.

Lily has also added that the shipping details won’t be collected until the actual time for delivering time has arrived as to ensure that the product is not sent to the wrong our out-dated address. If you decide to cancel your order before the shipping period, Lily promises a full refund.

Wiehahn Diederichs


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