Meet Lily: A Smart Camera Drone That Automatically Flies, Follows & Captures You From the Air (VIDEO)

I see a lot of cool imaging gadgets in my line of work but the Lily Flying Camera is one of the more intriguing devices I’ve looked at in a while. A remote controlled aerial drone in the vein of the popular Phantom quadcopters from DJI, Lily adds an interesting new twist to UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). It’s fully automated and requires very little to no practice from users to take it for an aerial spin and capture sky-high video footage and still photos.

In just a few minutes you’ll be shooting aerial video and photo selfies with Lily. And the best part is that since this flying whirligig is fully automated, you won’t have to worry about crashing it. (At least that’s how it was explained and demonstrated to me.)

Prior to today’s official launch of Lily, the company’s CEO Antoine Balaresque gave me a demo of his flying camera in Sheep Meadow in Central Park where I shot the video that's embedded at the bottom of this post. Check out the clip to see this potentially revolutionary flying camera in action.

Some of the automated features demonstrated in the below video include Lily’s ability to automatically lock on, follow, and watch the user while capturing HD video and 12MP still photos. The Lily Flying Camera achieves this automation via “advanced computer vision algorithms and GPS,” according to the company.

Or as Balaresque put it during the demo: "There is no manual control." (Which is either scary or wonderful, depending upon how you look at it.)

The product is still a prototype and there will be a few more refinements when it goes on sale in early 2016. For instance, while the demo video shows Lily taking off and landing from Balaresque’s hand, the final version of the product will take that one step further: you’ll be able to simply throw Lily in the air and it will start flying and shooting footage and stills.

Also, while Balaresque was controlling Lily’s “watch, follow, spiral, and take off and land” automated functions via an iPhone in the clip, the company will introduce a wrist controller that will handle all those tracking commands, when the product ships next year.

Pre-sales for Lily begin today with pricing at $499. When the product ships in February 2016, the retail price will be $999. As to the long-term legality of Lily and other camera drones, that's still up in the air.

Here are a few more features of Lily. (More details in the company’s press release.)

• Throw it in the air to start shooting

• Flies itself, no controller required

• Waterproof

• Weighs 2.8 lbs; designed to fit in a backcpack

• Photos: 12 MP, Video: 1080p @ 60fps / 720p @ 120fps

• Sony IMX117 1/2.3-inch image sensor

• Programmable flight paths via mobile app

• 20 minutes of flight time

• Optimal flying range: Outdoors 10-30 ft, up to 25 mph

• Audio recording from tracking device

Below my demo video, I’ve embedded a Lily promo video from the company.