More bad news for the makers of the Lily drone. Just days after we told you they were killing off the drone (that never saw the public light), now the news is the drone maker has been sued for allegedly faking promo reels.
The lawsuit alleges that videos on Lily’s website, presented as though they had been taken by the drone, were in fact shot by a mixture of GoPro cameras and DJI drones, a competitor model that costs up to four times as much and requires a skilled filmmaker to manually control the camera.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s (SFDA) office filed the case on Thursday, the day after Lily announced it was shutting down and refunding customers who had pre-ordered its drone at prices ranging from $499 to $899.
Promotional videos laid out the true power of the Lily drone: the ability to take off from, and land on, a user’s outstretched hand; a waterproof casing to enable water-based launches; and most impressively, autopilot mode that could allow the drone to follow the user at a set distance and automatically film them.
In the videos, a drone operating under the autopilot setting was shown following people engaged in extreme sports such as snowboarding and white water kayaking. But the SFDA alleges that those videos were not shot with anything like the equipment that Lily promised to customers.
According to court documents, the DA says that despite “implicit and explicit representations that a Lily Camera was used to film those portions … that are seen from the point of view of a Lily,” but they were in fact “filmed by a much more expensive, professional camera drone (the DJI Inspire).”
The complaint states: “The DJI Inspire was the opposite of the ‘autonomous’ camera that Lily Robotics was touting. In order to achieve the POV video, the DJI Inspire required two people to operate and film those shots.”
According to emails quoted in the complaint, other footage was shot using a GoPro camera mounted to a Lily prototype. In the emails, the company’s co-founder Antoine Balaresque expresses concern that viewers could be able to tell.
“I am worried that a lens geek could study our images up close and detect the unique GoPro lens footprint,” the complaint quotes him as saying. “But I am just speculating here: I don’t know much about lenses but I think we should be extremely careful if we decide to lie publicly.”
As a result of the alleged wrongdoing, the SFDA is asking for the courts to fine Lily $2,500 for each individual violation.
Lily is offering a refund to customers over the next 60 days.
The company has not publicly commented on the complaint.