Drone Wars: Sprite Vs. Lily. Which Is The Better Camera Drone

May 21, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Drone Wars: Sprite Vs. Lily. Which Is The Better Camera Drone

May 21, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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lily-vs-sprite-01

It has only been 10 days since Lily came to the world a blazing and already there is has a challenger on the market. Introducing Sprite, which claims to be the world’s most portable and rugged unmanned aerial vehicle.

The two projects could not be more different, yet they address the same market: Autonomous (or Semi-Autonomous) camera drones.

In the red corner we have Lily – A small autonomous UAV that will track you and provide stellar footage.

In the blue corner: Sprite – A small autonomous UAV that will track you and provide stellar footage.

Let’s look at some of the major differences both project-wise and device wise.

Introduction movies:

Lily:

YouTube video

Sprite:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ascentaerosystems/sprite-the-portable-rugged-totally-different-small

Form Factor

lily-drone-2-01sprite-01

Lily is has a traditional form factor – an X shaped drone with a motor on each end. The arms fold back for convenient placement in you backpack. Design is one of the slickest I’ve seen and is very personable.

Sprite has a pretty innovative form factor. It looks like a coca-cola 2 littler bottle. It has two big rotors that spin in opposite directions to provide stability. I have to say that this is a bold decision. It is the first time we are seeing this form factor in a drone. It gets many points on easy carrying, but they will also have to prove the concept. I am concerned with the slang body moving too much to provide stable footage. Time will tell if the team overcomes this issue. The kickstarter page has very little footage to support either way.

Camera Specs

lily-drone-02sprite-02

You already know Lily’s camera specs, they use the Sony iMX 117 chip (same one in the black GoPro Hero Plus). They use a wider lens though. But you know what the movies will look like.

Camera is undecided for the Sprite yet, but according to the kickstarter they will support at least the following specs: 1080p video @30FPS or 720p @60FPS, and still images at 2304×1536, 1920×1080, or 1280×720. Sprite can change payloads so if you decide to upgrade the camera (say with 4K option) you don’t need to buy a new drone.

Control

lily-drone-04sprite-03

Lily is pretty simple – throw it in the air – it will track you. You control angle and subject to drone distance. There is something compelling about the simplicity of this control style, but it is somewhat limited. An app is said to be coming out soon, but we have yet to see it.

Sprite is a control freak’s dream – it uses an app to set way-points and have granular control over the action at each way-point. It actually uses off the shelf control solutions, which is always a good thing. According to the KS, they will support: Mission Planner, DroidPlanner™ and the new Tower™ flight control software. These features include Waypoint navigation, follow me, circle, return-to-home and structure scanning.

I assume follow-me will be for the Android control device, as I did not see a dedicated device for that.

Sprite also supports First person view. If this is how you like to fly, this is a winning point.

Battery

One of the most critical factors is flight time. Let’s look at the batteries:

Lili has a Built-in Lithium-Ion Battery which supports 20 min of flight time after a 2-hour charge.

Sprite supports an approximately 10-12 minutes of flight time on their 11.1v LiPo battery, but you can change batteries so you can have 3-4 of them.

Rigidity

lily-drone-2-04sprite-04

Both UAV’s claim to be rugged and waterproof.

We did see Lily emerge from water and operate. So it definitely supplied the needed proof in the pudding.

Sprite claims being waterproof in some locations, and water resistant airframe in others. It is not clear if it will survive a submissive test. We are awaiting a filmed proof.

Maintenance

Lily is a solid unit, you can replace a motor if it breaks, but this is about it. For anything else you would have to send Lily for service.

Sprite is more modular in that sense and aside the fact that you can change batteries, each element is separate and I assume servicing the unit will be easier.

Stabilization

lily-drone-2-03sprite-05

This one will have crucial impact on footage quality and the two companies have taken different approaches:

Lily has a dampening system to reduce the camera vibration and uses software stabilization for the rest of it (think instgram hyper lapse)

Sprite uses a 2-axis stabilized gimbal for the camera. So with this one I am less concerned about shares and vibration, and more about the way that the drone moves in the air. The bottom (at least in the video) has a tendency to rock when the drone changes speed or direction.

Obstacle Avoidance

sprite-06lily-drone-01

Plans to include imaging based Obstacle avoidance for Lily.

Optional Close-proximity obstacle-avoidance technology for operations in confined areas for Sprite

Project Course

Lily is self funded and a venture investment of 1 million dollars. They are raising more money via pre-sales. Your purchase is a real purchase. The delivery time is something that the team at Lily will have to stand behind.

Sprite is going kickstarter route. One interesting thing is that their call for action is Pre-Order Now On Kickstarter. But kickstarter does not support pre-sales only project backing. So as we know from precious ambitious projects, both delivery schedule, and even delivery are not guaranteed.

Price and Availability

Lily is said to deliver in February 2016 and cost $499 on presale.

Sprite lowest full pledge is $799 and is estimated to deliver in December 2015.

Which one is your favorite?

[lead illustration based on Claudio Gennari photo]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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34 responses to “Drone Wars: Sprite Vs. Lily. Which Is The Better Camera Drone”

  1. Nguyễn Khánh Avatar
    Nguyễn Khánh

    I’ll stick with my inspire 1.

    1. Ashley Harvey Avatar
      Ashley Harvey

      Yeah but for $500 now Lilly looks good.

    2. Nick G Avatar
      Nick G

      If I was spending that kind of money I’d definitely want something with at least 6 rotors. Quadcopters immediately crash with an kind of prop/motor/speed-controller failure. At least hex’s are still pretty much flyable with a motor out.

  2. Rick Avatar
    Rick

    As little more than a “follow me” drone, Lily is a bit of a one trick pony. It offers some great refinements but without typical R/C radio controllability it lacks any real usefulness beyond high tech selfies.

    I like the design and portability of the Sprite but as you noted there are too many unknowns here. They are also touting the 2 axis camera gimbal capable of carrying a GoPro Hero 3 (or better) but from the photos provided of the unit there will be serious vignetting of any images taken with a GoPro. Far more needs to be known before dropping that much coin on an unproven system

    There is another competitor on the market in the CyPhy LVL 1 drone. It has a much better pedigree than both of the above and at the same price as the Lily seems a pretty good deal. It is also R/C radio compatible. The only real unknown is the optics.
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1719668770/cyphy-lvl-1-drone-reinvented-for-performance-and-c

  3. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    While people with the short term memories are salivating over these “new” drones – in a few months, AirDog will be shipping. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/airdog/airdog-worlds-first-auto-follow-action-sports-dron

  4. Eric Esteb Avatar
    Eric Esteb

    The correct answer is Selfiebot by Sphero. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaR4X2iJo6M

    1. Nick G Avatar
      Nick G

      But Selfiebot isn’t real. It’s an April Fools joke.

  5. Shachar Weis Avatar
    Shachar Weis

    Vaporware vs Vaporware. Lets see which kickstarter managed to not go bankrupt.

  6. Ezra Ekman Avatar
    Ezra Ekman

    Both seem like decent budget options; each an autonomous recording solution under $1K, but with a few limitations. That said, spend just a bit more ($1,400 with the gimbal, $1K without, similar to the DJI Phantom 3), and get the 3DR Solo. Supports the same kind of control options as the Sprite, but 4 rotors (much more stable flight), 3-axis gimbal instead of 2 (more stable video), and designed to be just as modular and support future enhancements and payloads, (such as parachutes and other options, including 3rd-party ones), etc. It also supports 3rd-party gimbals, when they become available. Like the Sprite, it supports removable batteries (may be more easily removed than the Sprite, since they’re on top of the Solo), and they’ve partnered with GoPro to allow complete control of GoPro cameras via the remote (start/stop recording, change settings, etc.), as opposed to having to set things up before it goes into the air. It also has the same kind of autonomous options as the Sprite, i.e. it can orbit or follow you, be set to follow a pre-defined path or a series of waypoints, etc.

    Finally, the Solo is a “real” product, i.e. it’s been hitting the trade shows and is starting to ship sometime in the next couple of months, as opposed to just being in the Kickstarter/prototype phase right now. It’s also the only UAV on the market I’m aware of that offers a replacement guarantee against flyaways (not just for the UAV, but also for any attached gimbal/camera) because they logs are stored in the controller, rather than just the vehicle, so you can prove what happened. Check out their site for more details: http://3drobotics.com/solo/

    DIY Photography has also posted about it before: https://www.diyphotography.net/3d-robotics-smart-drone-uses-computers-to-control-flight-allows-artists-to-focus-on-the-footage/

    It’s also a “real” product, i.e. it’s been hitting the trade shows and is starting to ship sometime in the next couple of months (theoretically June, but I’ve heard there’s a bit of a delay), as opposed to just being in the Kickstarter/prototype phase right now. It’s also the only UAV on the market I’m aware of that offers a replacement guarantee against flyaways (not just for the UAV, but also for any attached gimbal/camera) because the usage logs are stored in the controller, rather than just the vehicle, so you can prove what happened. Check out their site for more details: http://3drobotics.com/solo/

    DIY Photography has also posted about it before: https://www.diyphotography.net/3d-robotics-smart-drone-uses-computers-to-control-flight-allows-artists-to-focus-on-the-footage/

    1. Darrell B. Avatar
      Darrell B.

      I have flown quads, hexs, and others for a while now, and the inspire 1 is great, yes, but you can’t tell me that the Lily doesn’t fascinate you.

      I agree though that i will wait for more testing to be done even after it is released and shipped to potential customers. sporting practices, snow events, water events… the options for use are only limited to outdoor use and avoidance…

      1. Ezra Ekman Avatar
        Ezra Ekman

        It does fascinate me. I think the Lily is an amazing product and, as someone who’s literally watched the world become what he’s read about in science fiction for years, I’m extremely excited to see projects like this come about. We’ve watched the world change before our very eyes because of innovation like this. In photography, we’ve gone from renting studios with $20,000 strobes because this was the only way to get studio work done to being able to build a fully-equipped studio for $1,000-$2,000 with strobes like Paul C. Buff. We’ve seen overhead cinematography shots go from hundreds of thousands of dollars per shoot for renting a helicopter and a shock-mounted gimbal to a few hundred dollars for a GoPro on a UAV. And now we’re seeing computer-controlled UAVs that can follow us around for less than the price of some prime lenses. It’s an incredible time to be alive, as a creative professional.

        That said, I’m seeing the same functionality plus a lot more in the Solo, other than not being waterproof. Thus, I would also say that, for professionals, perhaps the Lily isn’t the best choice at the present time. ;-)

      2. GoAwayLib Avatar
        GoAwayLib

        5 feet away from you on the lily, I can narrate a showing of a home as a real estate agent among other options.

        1. North Emissary Avatar
          North Emissary

          Can you imagine touring the whole house with it live? For me this will not be a toy.

        2. Coatsey Avatar
          Coatsey

          5 feet away, won’t the rotors be too noisy? Just a thought but I’m keen to buy but not quite there for me, maybe Version 2’s…

  7. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Not to be an ass about it, but I’d vote in none. And I highly recommend not betting in any unless you have pockets deep enough to just dismiss the burn in case the project you chose comes out far worse than you’ve expected, extremely late, or worse, never happen at all.

    As someone who has backed several Kickstarter projects, let me tell you the risk ranking: software to be distributed digitally are the less risky ones (and they still fall short lots of times), then software with physical distribution, hardware comes next, then hardware with software, and finally multiple hardware with multiple software – the most risky with the most problems. Specially with unproven, unchoosen, essencial parts and staff.
    Safer exceptions: comic books, books, photography books, etc. Depends on author experience too.

    It’s fine if you wanna trust the people behind the projects, and is willing to burn your money for the effort, really. Sometimes you make a point with your money that there’s a market for the product, so even if it doesn’t go forward, another company might pick up the idea and make it happen.

    But do not bet or make plans for them. Don’t expect to see your money back if the drone comes out and can’t even make one item on the list properly. In fact, you might not get your money back even if the plan completely fails and the project devs run away with the money. I’ve seen it happening over and over, and it’s still happening today, with several far fetched projects that even reached major news outlets.

    From experience: I backed up a far simpler project back sometime ago, a sort of automated pan and tilt tripod head which can follow you around. The group had a working prototype, knew what they were doing. It took them over double the time promissed (couple of years+ instead of one), they faced problems in every step of development (from hardware redesign, software, manufacturing, distribution, and tons of other stuff). By the time the product came out (and I received it), it made far less sense in comparison to what already was in the market, the ideas for usage I had passed, and I ended up never using it – lesson learned.

    The real problem with Kickstarter is that there are too many inexperienced or poorly experienced people launching projects while being completely unfamiliar with several (or sometimes all) steps of the development and launch proccess. Scammers aside, honest hard working people just fail to understand how complex it is to deliver all their promises. Initial design and the parts needed to advertise the idea are but a itty bitty tiny step into the process. Always remember you are paying for an attempt to develop an idea, unless stated otherwise.

    I find the ideas in both projects very interesting, but unless it’s an actual product I can test live, I just don’t believe it – specially regarding drones. Personally, I find it safer to wait for some of the big drone companies out there to try to incorporate these ideas in existing tech. They at least have the drone part already working on their side.

    1. Guest Avatar
      Guest

      You sound like your Mommy kept the whole world wrapped in bubble-wrap to protect you while growing up. How do you think advances are made/brought to market? $600 is pocket change. Take a little risk now and then, or stay in your room.

      1. Renato Murakami Avatar
        Renato Murakami

        Says the anonymous ass who can’t even identify himself before throwing childish insults over the web.

    2. eugenegeyl@hotmail.com Avatar
      eugenegeyl@hotmail.com

      I am really scared about this Lily, so is my mum whom i went halves with…the emails they keep sending make them soumd like a bunch of kids… And photos show that too. I though they had a working prototype from that promotional video?! Or was that a video of whatit could be?!

  8. mike m Avatar
    mike m

    Ive read all your comments and you all make valid point and reading further brought other competitors to the surface that I wasn’t aware of. After looking into the other brands mentioned in the comments and also the sprite and lily ive realized that the best drone is going to be the one you have to control the least as well as video quality and price. They are all portable and most are waterproof. For me I need a water proof one so that ruled out some of the ones that weren’t. I don’t want to spend over a thousand dollars, maybe even less than that, so that narrowed it down even more. I need a follow drone, I don’t want to control it at all that’s why drones like the 3DR solo was out (actually it was out already because it wasn’t waterproof).
    So ive decided im going to pre order the Lily. Its $500 which blows all the other pre orders out of the water. It seems like it will be more stable than the sprite due to its wider design. You cant beat the picture quality in the Lily. It has the most flight time even though I realize it is an advantage for the sprite to be able to change batteries but with an $800 price point I would assume that to buy multiple batteries to give yourself longer flight times will run it up another few hundred dollars.
    But most of all the simplicity in the tracker for the Lily as well as a simple phone app to adjust your preferences will make all the difference for me. I don’t need all that extra stuff in the Sprite. Ill pay $500 and when im ready ill stick the tracker in my pocket and throw it in the air and get the job done as well as any drone on the market if not better.

    1. Mike Gann Avatar
      Mike Gann

      Have you looked into the Airdog as a choice?

  9. Tony Coops Avatar
    Tony Coops

    It all comes down to cost, hard wear and looks, in that order. Lily wins hands down.

  10. Nick G Avatar
    Nick G

    For me – the best choice will depend on which whichever delivers the best video quality. I’m far less worried about video quality on the Sprite than I am on the Lily as it supports GoPro cameras and therefore the camera is “known good” and upgradable. Also Lily has no gimbal! (just a 1 axis tilt servo). Digitally stabilised video is never as good as mechanically stabilised video and Lily’s sample footage doesn’t look great compared to what you can get from a Phantom Vision. Sprite *may* come with a 2 axis brushless gimbal but they haven’t confirmed this yet. If it does, it will hands-down be the best option for anyone interested in video quality. However it’s pretty risky trying to get that coaxial design working and as such, I was unwilling to back it on Kickstarter. The Sprite also seems very poor value for money compared to the Phantom Vision – which offers many more features out of the box than the Sprite. People saying that the sprite is more compact – well it depends how you measure it. From the dimensions I’ve seen, it seems the Sprite is bigger than I was expecting and the Lily is surprisingly small (It’s 10.3 inches with folded props, so would easily fit on a sheet of US Letter or A4 paper). Sprite is 13 inches long. As such, both should comfortably fit in a small backpack – even if you were to put them in a case. Lily should be much easier to repair should anything happen to it. Fixing the complex rotor assembly of the Sprite is likely not possible without expensive spare parts (ie a whole replacement rotor assembly) so a serious crash might mean you have to buy a new one. Not being able to fly the Lily manually (with a normal controller) is also a big negative for me – it removes half the fun of having one and means it can only be used in limited situations.

  11. yep Avatar
    yep

    battery life is my concern

    1. Jens Peter Froning Avatar
      Jens Peter Froning

      I think also, if you could exchange the batteries on Lily, it would be perfect. But I think waterproof might be the problem here.

  12. Mike Gann Avatar
    Mike Gann

    these drones aren’t really in the same category. Sprite might be trying to get some sales in aerial photography but it’s obviously the best choice as a tool for lets say geologists mapping an area with tools that arent cameras

  13. JIm Avatar
    JIm

    Lily is actually $699 Pre-sale pricing. Not $499.

    1. jordkl Avatar
      jordkl

      was $499 at original pre-sale.

      1. JIm Avatar
        JIm

        Exactly, it’s not anymore and it’s still on pre-sale. Duh?

        1. jordkl Avatar
          jordkl

          it’s tiered. so buy before October…

    2. Varun Gupta Avatar
      Varun Gupta

      It started with 499$ till June 15, and then they’re increasing the price by 100$ every month or two, until it reaches the marked price of 999$ on its launch in Feb 2016.

  14. Coatsey Avatar
    Coatsey

    I voted Lily even though I love the changeable modules and batteries of the Sprite. Why then I hear you ask, well 11 minutes is simply not long enough from one set of batteries and it’s not clear about waterproof abilities. Solve both of these and it’s the one I would have voted for based on what I read. Like the majority though I voted for Lily. The proof of the pudding will be interesting once released in numbers.

  15. LifeHack Inventions Avatar
    LifeHack Inventions

    You can get the Lily Camera HERE for $611 instead of $799: http://www.lifehackinventions.com/lilycamera

  16. Xi Le Avatar
    Xi Le

    Does it record video in 1080p/30fps H.264 on SDHC/SDXC card? How we take it out to edit the videos on our computers?

  17. seesfarther Avatar
    seesfarther

    Lily – Bought in early via pre-sale for Feb, ’16 delivery. It is now mid July, ’16 and it seems as if all I’ve actually received is ongoing development BS. Meanwhile, ski resorts have basically banned drones for photography purposes and other manufacturers have released similar ‘follow me’ products. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they simply folded and ran off with people’s money.