Snap releases Pixy ‘flying camera’ drone that can take selfies while flying around the user, as social media companies compete over hardware add-ons
Social media company Snap has released a flying camera drone, its latest hardware add-on for the Snapchat app.
It calls the unit a “free-flying sidekick” that can give a new perspective on selfies.
The Pixy drone sells for $230 (£183) in the US and France, which have more permissive laws around drones than the UK.
Pixy takes off from the palm of the user’s hand and flies around them using one of several pre-selected flight modes.
When the user is ready to stop, they extend their palm and the unit automatically flies back and lands on it, sensing the action with a downward-facing camera.
Pixy captures 2.7K-resolution video that is transferred to a phone via Bluetooth and saved in the app, from which it can be shared via Snapchat or exported for use elsewhere.
The app can automatically crop the horizontal footage to Snapchat’s vertical orientation – intended for phone viewing – and allows users to preset basic controls.
The automated flight modes allow it to hover near the user, pull back up to 30 feet, follow the user around, or make a full circle around the user before heading back to land. The patterns are selected using a dial on top of the device.
Pixy includes new effects that can, for instance, clone the user in the images.
The “flying camera”, as Snap calls it, weighs 101 grams including a swappable battery. A full charge theoretically powers five to eight flights of 10 to 20 seconds each, with additional batteries costing $20 each.
Snap is selling a dual-battery charger for $50. The drone’s 12MP camera shoots 100 videos or 1,000 photos that are stored on a 16GB internal drive.
Because the drone doesn’t capture audio, Snap allows users to add songs it has licensed from music labels.
— Pixy (@snappixy) April 28, 2022
The unit’s weight places it under the 250g limit above which a user would be required to register it for recreational use in the US.
Initial reviews noted that the light weight of the pocket-sized drone makes it impractical to use in anything more than a light breeze.
Reviews also criticised the short battery life and video quality, but praised Pixy’s ease of use.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that people flying drones in the UK are required to follow the Dronecode.
“Drones with a follow-me mode are allowed if the drone remains within 50m of you,” the agency said.
“Most drone users need to register with us as a drone operator and flyer but if a drone is classed as a toy then these are exempt, but users do still need to follow the Dronecode.”
Snap released a line of camera-equipped glasses called Spectacles in 2016, with several updates since then, and an augmented reality (AR) version currently in limited testing and planned for release sometime in the near future.
Snap initially overestimated demand for Spectacles, and is now treating the project as an experiment – although it still says it expects AR glasses to become as popular as smartphones “within five to ten years”.
Meta is also testing the waters for camera- and AR-enabled hardware add-ons with its Stories smart glasses developed with Ray-Ban.
As with Spectacles, Snap is proceeding cautiously with the new drone, called Pixy, releasing it online-only and in limited numbers, for now.
While Snap doesn’t receive as much press as some other social media companies, it remains hugely popular, with 330 million daily users – more than Twitter’s 229 million – including 75 percent of 13 to 34 year olds in more than 20 countries.