Drone Maker Lily Announces a Product Delay and New Funding

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The drone from Lily is waterproof and can track its user’s movements automatically from the air.

People who order innovative new drones from start-ups without track records have good reason to be nervous.

Last month, a British start-up that raised $3.4 million on Kickstarter to build Zano, a handheld drone, collapsed after shipping only about 600 of the about 15,000 drones ordered. The start-up, Torquing Group, blamed a variety of unforeseen technical problems for the calamity.

Now another young start-up, Lily, is running into a problem of its own. The company says it will delay delivery of its drone, which people have paid $499 to $799 to preorder. Instead of shipping the product starting in February as promised, customers will receive it in the summer, the company said.

In announcing the delay on Thursday, Lily, a San Francisco start-up, tried to reassure customers by revealing a significant round of funding from a group of private investors. The company said it had raised $15 million in a funding round led by Spark Capital, a venture capital firm that invested in Twitter and other start-ups. SV Angel, the Stanford-StartX Fund, the musician Steve Aoki and the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana also invested in Lily.

Bijan Sabet, a general partner at Spark Capital, said that Lily’s founders had created a unique product through a combination of design, technology and vision. “I admire their passion and commitment in delivering an amazing experience for their customers,” Mr. Sabet said.

The drone market is becoming crowded, but Lily received attention this year when it released a video showing the capabilities of its product. The drone is waterproof and can track its user’s movements automatically from the air, filming high-definition aerial video of them as they kayak or ski. The drone can automatically return to a user without having to be manually piloted, landing in the palm of their hand. The drone stops spinning its rotors the moment it senses it’s being held.

There are important differences between Lily and Zano. While Lily accepted preorders for its product, the company is not crowdfunded the way Torquing Group was. Lily said it had funded its operation as a company through private investors and had not tapped into the proceeds it received from the preorder of its product. Any customer who preordered the drone can get a refund, Lily said.

“We have no plans to use a single cent of that money until your Lily Camera goes into final production,” the company’s founders, Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow, wrote in a blog post expected to be published on Thursday.

In that same post, the men said the delay was caused by problems with the flight software that powers the drone. Following its initial preorder campaign, it made several technical changes to the drone that require additional time for testing. They said the company had produced 200 drones and was beginning to test them under the harsh conditions in which customers were likely to use the product.

“We’ve hit some challenges there, but rest assured, it’s nothing our team can’t handle,” the co-founders wrote. “We just need more time.”

What MadAboutDrones thinks: Are we surprised? Not really!

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