Tag Archives: lily

Free Your Smart Phone and Let it Fly

You may not feel very enthusiastic about Lily, the flying camera-drone that follows you around, but a PhoneDrone is bound to change your point of view. Using your smartphone as its brains, the PhoneDrone lends it wings and allows it to fly along a predetermined path.

This is a perfectly logical situation as a smartphone already contains the necessary sensory and computing power that a drone needs. Most smartphones run on a powerful multicore processor along with several sensors on-board, so why pay for all these things over again when buying a drone. The people at PhoneDrone were also led by the same reasoning and the result is a drone that utilizes its owner’s smartphone for its brains. Users have to dock their phone into the device for each use. Not only does this approach help to keep the price down, it also makes the user exercise caution not to crash the thing.

The Indiana-based company, xCraft, has designed the PhoneDrone, which can accommodate not only iPhones 4s and above, but also the most popular Android phones as well. This same company had earlier produced the fixed-wing/hovering X PlusOne drone. Users can fly the latest PhoneDrone, a quadcopter, in a few different fashions.

By using another mobile device, users can control their flying mobile through Wi-Fi and at the same time, watch live streaming video from the camera on the PhoneDrone. A free app allows users to enter a flight path for the PhoneDrone to follow autonomously. When transporting the device, the propeller arms of the PhoneDrone will fold back.

The user can also impose a follow-me mode with the second mobile device, if required. The phone in the aircraft locks on to the signal of the hand-held device and will automatically pilot the drone to position it above the hand-held device as it moves. A folding mirror on the drone allows the camera of the phone to shoot straight ahead, down or anywhere in between. The battery in the drone gives a flight time of 20-25 minutes. According to xCraft, they are working on an ultrasonic type of collision-avoidance system.

At present, xCraft is raising product funds via Kickstarter for their PhoneDrone project. You can pledge US$199 for the product, which will be yours as soon as xCraft is ready to go.

Others have also tried their hands at making drones with brains based on smartphones. Notable among them are the University of Pennsylvania and the Vienna University of Technology. However, their attempts were mostly one-off. Qualcomm and UPenn have also combined the drone and phone earlier. They had used the electronics of the Android smartphone and its software to fly the drone. All the sensors required for providing navigational information for the drone are already present on the smartphone – accelerometer, GPS, gyroscope and others.

The present trend is to utilize the camera on the phone itself and use its visual input to steer the phone. The user has to install an app on the phone to achieve this. In future, expect more hobbyists to substitute smartphones for hardware at the heart of several other types of machinery such as drones.

A drone camera to follow you around

Unlike Mary, most of us are fortunate or unfortunate enough not to have a little lamb following us around. However, that does not mean we cannot have a camera drone following us wherever we go. A California-based startup firm has pioneered an easy-to-use, self-flying drone as the world’s unique throw-and-shoot camera that flies itself.

To use the device, you simply throw it into air. Lily, the drone camera, immediately deploys its four propellers to provide thrust and directional vectoring. No controller is required as Lily automatically follows its owner. You are free to continue to focus on your activity as Lily captures your adventures, flying itself while grabbing high definition images and video. It is impossible for you to outrun Lily, because it can fly at speeds of up to 25 mph. Therefore, you can employ Lily to film you while snowboarding, kayaking or cycling.

The camera inside Lily is specially engineered to withstand robust handling in tough aerial as well as water environments. Anyone who wants to share their everyday activities can use Lily as a simple, fun way to record their outdoor action sports. Lily can track its owner intelligently, following his or her every move by using GPS and advanced computing algorithms. Lily can provide additional creative shooting opportunities for those wanting to move beyond the single point-of-view of handheld and action cameras.

What makes Lily follow you around and not wander off with some stranger? Well, Lily comes with a tracking device that the owner has to wear on his or her wrist. In reality, Lily is wirelessly tethered to this tracking device, while recognizing the owner using computer vision to follow your features optically. Over time, the tracking accuracy improves as Lily learns on-the-job. With Lily, you can get exciting close-range photos as well as wide, cinematic shots just as professional filmmakers can.

Lily captures still shots at 12MP resolution, slow motion at 720p at 120fps and HD video at 1080p at 60fps. The tracking device uses a built-in microphone for recording high-quality sound, which Lily automatically synchronizes with the video being recorded. Lily has a companion app to which it streams low-resolution live video. This helps the user to frame the shots.

Lily works best in outdoor conditions at a height of 10-30ft. A proprietary computer vision algorithm drives the core technology of Lily’s camera. Although Lily works comfortably in winds exceeding 20mph, the manufacturer advices its use in winds below 15mph, to be safe.

Lily complies with FAA guidelines, while communicating with the tracking device worn by its owner. It relays speed, distance and position back to the built-in camera. The user can direct Lily via either the tracking device or the mobile app. According to the program used, Lily can follow, hover, loop, zoom and do more at an average flying speed of 15 mph. Depending on the way Lily’s owner uses it, a full charge allows Lily to operate between 18 and 22 minutes.

It takes two full hours to charge up fully. As the battery runs low, the tracking device warns you with vibrations. You can summon Lily to make it land on your palm gracefully.