Drone start-up ceases operations despite €34m in pre-orders

13 Jan 2017

The Lily drone held much promise. Image: Lily

Lily, the start-up behind the first throw-and-shoot drone camera, has shut down operations despite securing €34m worth of pre-orders, offering refunds to customers.

Lily, one of the most exciting drone start-ups around, has announced plans to shut down, after it failed to address a programme of “ever-diminishing funds”.

The company emerged in 2015 with plans for a drone that customers could simply throw into the air, with the device adjusting immediately to shadow the owner’s movements, thanks to a tracking device placed on their wrist that also allows them to control what it does.

However, in an email to customers, the company revealed that it was finished fighting a losing battle, promising to refund all pre-order customers within the next 60 days.

“We have been racing against a clock of ever-diminishing funds,” said the company’s co-founders, Henry Bradlow and Antoine Balaresque, in an email to customers.

“Over the past few months, we have tried to secure financing in order to unlock our manufacturing line and ship our first units – but have been unable to do this.

“As a result, we are deeply saddened to say that we are planning to wind down the company and offer refunds to customers.”

Antoine Balaresque with the Lily drone. Image: Lily

Antoine Balaresque with the Lily drone. Image: Lily

The news will be a major blow to the many customers Lily had acquired on the back of marketing such a great product.

The idea was a new form of selfie, so people like joggers or hikers could film their movements. To back up the really cool idea, Lily had an estimated flight time of 20 minutes and a two-hour charge. It could supposedly shoot 1080p video with full sound at 60fps, slow-motion 120fps footage at 720p, and still images at a resolution of 12MP.

Indeed, no sooner than the news had circulated among customers, San Francisco’s district attorney filed a lawsuit accusing the company for false advertising and unfair business practices.

This suit was in the works for weeks, with TechCrunch reporting that Lily owners were notified just one day before refunds were offered to pre-order customers.

This, however, could be coincidental timing, with the company responding by saying the refund and ending of the business has also been in the works for quite some time.

This is confusing, given that December saw the company post an update on their long-delayed devices.

“We are expanding our calibration checks to ensure the camera will function properly across a larger range of geographic areas due to the Earth’s varying magnetic fields,” it said at the time.

Around 60,000 customers are estimated to have pre-ordered the drone. The original promotional video, released in May 2015, has been viewed nearly 12m times.

In late 2015, another drone manufacturer, Zano, saw its own optimistic product release fall by the wayside. The most successful European Kickstarter campaign at the time, in January 2015, the company raised £2.3m to build a tiny drone controlled by a smartphone app.

It was bankrupt by the end of the year.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic