Meet Lily, a small drone you can toss in the air, to track and record your every move. This is what I imagine a more practical use of drones to be like in the future–Everyone with their own little drone assistant to film them… open doors, fend off would-be assailants, etc.

Lily took to the pre-purchase sky this past spring, but more information has come out as the release gets closer. It’s a small package, 10.3 x 10.3 x 3.3 inches with a max altitude of 50 feet and max speed of 25 feet. Video specs are fairly standard with a 1080p, 60 fps / 720p, 120 fps camera integrated into its underbelly, with footage recorded on a 4GB micro SD card via an external memory card slot. Flight time? With a two hour charge, you get 20 minutes of flight time. Hardly impressive, but not unexpected for such a small package.

Auto-follow drones are not new. There’s the AirDog ($1295), Ghost ($979) and the palm-size Zano ($375). All follow you… once you get it in the air. What makes Lily truly exceptional is being able to literally throw it into the air and immediately have it follow you. Here’s what that looks like.

Lily was born in the basement of a UC Berkeley robotics lab, where Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow built the first prototype using a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino. Antoine had the idea from a day out snowboarding with no way to record himself. Less than a year later, they captured funding from Shana Fisher and SV Angel. No Kickstarter launch needed.

Of course, our interest is what went into the design of this different take on auto-follow drones–how many prototypes they threw into the air in that basement until it worked. We reached out to Lily for more information and their ‘100% focused on the production stages of Lily’ at this point, so we won’t get any insight quite yet.

Pre-orders are available directly through the Lily website at $699 with expected shipping in May 2016.

It remains to be seen how customizable the drone will be, if you’re able to integrate your own camera or expand its capability programmatically. Our hope is that, by the time it’s available, we’ll see 4k video, more storage and longer flight time.

Here’s an interesting question, how could this aid design and engineering onsite or in the field? What if we could outfit this with a 3D scanner, which has actually been done.

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Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.