The crowd-funded “Lily” Drone is moving towards launch and has just released early test footage to showcase progress so far.
As with many crowd-funded autonomous quadcopter projects, Lily has suffered from delays, limited communication and technical challenges, but this waterproofed air-dog competitor is looking a little more positive in recent weeks through the Lily daily update blogs and random video snippets.
The latest video release, issued only to backers, shows a slightly wobbly example of the ‘follow me’ mode, the quality isn’t perfect but the video is not at all bad considering the fixed inbuilt camera and lack of gimbal for stabilisation. Lily have also made clear that this video has no EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) applied to it, it is hoped that this will be introduced before launch.
Lily accompanied the video with a few comments:
“On weekdays, our testing is conducted in short, focused sprints, narrowing in on very specific features that have unfolded in our latest software version. On Saturdays, we have time to go in-depth on activity-specific use cases.”
It would appear that Lily have learnt from the crowd-funded projects of 2015 and early 2016 by employing a test team and professional if not informal testing strategy.
“During our weekend sessions, stations are set up in different areas of the test site, with three people active at each station. We have one Lily employee serving as team captain, overseeing the entire operation. A Lily scribe stands at the ready to observe and record behaviors, filing bugs straight away in real time. And last, of course, we have our awesome tester. We typically gather a group of about 20 over the course of an ample five hour time block.”
Comprehensive bug test/fix prior to shipping has hindered many recent similar projects, including Zano and OnagoFly, it would appear that Lily are trying their best to avoid such issues.
In addition, Lily have organised a ‘beta group’ of testers, these backers will be the first to receive a Lily and will assist in reporting and remedying issues before the start of mass production.
Lily also gave some notes to accompany the video:
“When you instruct Lily Camera to move with you, we expect it to stay nimble. With this in mind, our team has been testing user movements such as sharp turns and sudden changes in speed to optimize reaction time.
This comment relates to the autonomous flight capabilities of Lily. How it handles changes in flight path and direction will be interesting as many ‘follow me’ modes (including the Phantom 3 prior to the Phantom 4’s image tracking) struggled to transition smoothly as the subject changed direction.
The watch feature has been tested heavily for battery endurance. Now we’ve shifted focus to device maneuverability within this mode, such as zoom in, out, and orbit.
Lily does not incorporate any control mechanism other than its ‘watch’ unit, as a consequence battery life is key whilst also keeping the unit lightweight and compact so as not to interfere with sports.
Lily Camera undergoes a series of pre-flight checks before take-off. Tests around this involve confirming that the checks pass as smoothly as intended, and that the user experience is seamless and intuitive.”
In a similar style to the Phantom’s warm-up, Lily features a self-diagnostic which verifies that the IMU (the intelligence behind the autonomy) is calibrated and reading correctly from the various aircraft sensors.
Update 10/04/16 – Lily have just provided additional comment in relation to this demonstration video:
“A few of you wrote in with some questions about the test footage we released last week. As you know, our door is always open to any inquiries about Lily Beta — we thought we’d address a few of those here.
The test footage you see from the untuned camera in this unit is not representative of what we are shipping this summer. The unit used during last weekend’s session was intended to test specific tracking and landing protocols.
Known issues visible in this video are as follows:
- Visible compression artifacts
Lily Engineering is working tirelessly to tune and refine image quality. As we continue to make software updates, we’ll continue to release footage so you can see these improvements first-hand before you receive your Lily Camera this summer. As always, our Customer Service team is happy to answer any additional questions you may have about test footage we ship out. Just shoot them a note at email@example.com.”
It would appear in general that the management team behind Lily are a professional group and are managing expectations very well, however for backers the only element of importance, and the only key measurement for success will be how well Lily flies and whether the promises committed are delivered.
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