Lily Robotics Fails, Will Refund Drone Customers

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Remember the follow-drone we got all hyped about in 2015? Well, turns out she’s not going to take off. After multiple launch delays, the company still couldn’t round up enough money to get products out the door. Lily Robotics will now refund customers who preordered–a whopping $34 million–and shut down operations. Another drone bites the dust.

This from Forbes:
“Lily Robotics, the makers of an autonomous flying camera that launched with great fanfare and garnered $34 million in pre-orders, is dead.

The San Francisco-drone company said in an email to customers that it was unable to find more financing to enable manufacturing and production of its first drone. One source that was informed of the company’s troubles said that Lily had been trying to bring in an additional $15 million after having already raised $15 million by Dec. 2015.

“We have been racing against a clock of ever-diminishing funds,” wrote the company’s cofounders Henry Bradlow and Antoine Balaresque. “Over the past few months, we have tried to secure financing in order to unlock our manufacturing line and ship our first units–but have been unable to do this. As a result, we are deeply saddened to say that we are planning to wind down the company and offer refunds to customers.”

Lily’s demise is the latest high-profile blunder in the difficult consumer drone industry. Late last year, GoPro, which had been promising a flagship drone for more than a year, had to recall its quadcopter, Karma, after a battery issue caused the device to lose power and fall out of the sky mid-flight. 3D Robotics, the country’s most well-funded drone startup, had to change its focus toward enterprise applications after it was unable to hit sales targets for its expensive-to-produce drone, Solo.

Bradlow and Balaresque did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

Lily launched to the public in May 2015 with a slick promotional video that demonstrated a flying robot that could autonomously follow snowboarders and kayakers on their outdoors adventures. The video, which has been viewed nearly 12 million times, features a device that took off when thrown in the air and could seemingly navigate itself around objects, a near-impossible task for most consumer drones at the time.

A Lily spokesperson told FORBES last January that the video had taken many times to shoot and that the drone had been improved with different parts that would not be in the market device when it shipped. Video reviews by outlets such as The Guardian showed a fickle prototype that did not have the full capabilities that were shown in the advertisement.

While the marketing led to plenty of attention and pre-orders, which amounted to $34 million for 60,000 units at the beginning of 2016, the company ran into production issues. When launched, Lily said it expected to be out by Feb. 2016. That was delayed to the summer of 2016, which was then delayed to early 2017 as explained in an August blog post.

Now, Lily will never fly.

“We want to thank you for sticking with us and believing in us during this time,” its cofounders wrote. “Our community was the drive that kept us going even as circumstances became more and more difficult.”

Lily said in the email that it would offer refunds to pre-order customers in the next 60 days. It is unclear how much money the company still has in the bank or if it will return any of it to its investors, which include SV Angel and Spark Capital.”

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