… And the Lily Drone Came Crashing Down
All is not what it seems in the competitive world of personal drones. A little over eighteen months ago, Lily Robotics dazzled potential customers with its promo videos for the Lily camera drone. Viewers watched as the San Francisco outfit’s flagship model was tossed into the air and suddenly came to life, stabilizing itself and proceeding to follow its users as they enjoyed participating in all kinds of outdoor activities. The company told the public that the Lily drone would follow its users at a distance of up to 100 feet, and a height of 50 feet, recording their activities in HD.
The video gave the impression that the Lily drone could travel with speeds up to 25mph and would automatically ‘recognize’ the user and film in their direction. This left the user free to surf, skate, ride and climb, all the while being filmed by the drone. The key message was that, once you’ve tossed the Lily drone into the air, it will automatically film whatever you do, leaving you free to fully focus on your activity.
The marketing video proved a huge success and Lily Robotics was swamped with advance orders, totaling $34 million. So it came as a great shock to most, just several months later, to learn that the tech company was shutting down – having been unsuccessful in its quest to fund the manufacture of the drones for mass retail. Lily Robotics remained tight-lipped about the details of its failure, but promised to refund its customers within a couple months.
So, why was the company unable to secure the funding it needed? According to the San Francisco district attorney’s office, the Lily drone and the drone featured in the video weren’t the same at all. Rather than using a prototype Lily drone, the slippery characters at Lily Robotics had actually used a “much more expensive, professional camera drone that requires two people to operate.” Unsurprisingly, a lawsuit quickly followed, which is still ongoing.
Not to be deterred by being caught out, former UC Berkeley alumnus and Lily founder, Henry Bradlow, has already stated his intention to bring the drone back some day – perhaps even featuring it in its own promo material.