Snapchat Launches Flying Camera: Pixy


A flying camera is the latest release from Snap, the company best known for its photo-sharing app Snapchat. The company described the little yellow drone, Pixy, as a “free-flying sidekick” that can help people take selfies without a selfie stick.

The gadget is available in France and the US, where the laws are more lenient around drones than in the UK. Several social media giants are stepping up their hardware and Augmented Reality (AR) offerings.

The Pixy operates on its own, taking video as it flies, which is then wirelessly transferred and saved in the app. At the end of the flight, the selfie drone lands in the palm of your hand. Snapchat has 300 million daily active users around the world, according to the company. It also claims to reach more than 75% of those aged 13-34 in more than 20 countries.

The next craze

Snapchat is known for its AR “lenses” on phones, which overlay art on a selfie or distort the live image. In 2016, Snap launched camera-equipped glasses, sold as Spectacles – which further developed the immersive Augmented Reality experience.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel predicted Spectacles would one day be as ubiquitous as mobile phones – but the company lost nearly $40 million on the device in 2017 “primarily related to excess inventory reserves and inventory purchase commitment cancellation charges.” The company has since launched an updated AR version of Spectacles, but they are not yet on sale.

The next smartphone boom

Meanwhile, there are high hopes for Pixy, as drones are increasingly embraced by industry and the general public. Managing director of Nationwide Drones, Owen Jenkins, said, “Drone use is already mainstream across media, cinematography, surveying, and inspection. It can only be expected that personal drones will become commonplace in society. If it’s small, light, and slow, it’s very unlikely to cause damage or injury. I can’t see why they won’t be the next smartphone boom.”

Jenkins expressed some concern about Pixy not having a direct controller but as the device is only 101g and has enclosed propellers, it is unlikely to cause any damage even if it went rogue. “It sits comfortably under the 250g limit where the user laws kick in,” he said.

Snap says products such as Pixy are “subject to local, state and federal laws about who can fly them, how and where they should be flown” – and urge users to pay attention to the applicable drone laws.

Will Harford, director of photography at CloudVisual, suggests Snapchat should integrate multiple-choice questions which have to be answered by the user before Pixy can be flown for the first time – so users are clear about local drone laws.

“Sadly, this little drone is just too small to carry the hardware to know where it shouldn’t fly, so it’s down to the user to know and abide by the rules,” he said

Despite lightweight drones not being subjected to the stricter rules of their heavier counterparts, Harford warns that “common sense” must still be applied when using it.

“It would be a bad idea to use it at an airport, where it is illegal for a drone to fly, irrespective of its weight.”

A UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said, “Anyone flying a drone in the UK needs to follow the UK Dronecode. Drones with a follow-me mode are allowed if the drone remains within 50m of you. Most drone users need to register with us as a drone operator and flyer, but if a drone is classed as a toy, these are exempt, but users still need to follow the Dronecode.”