Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, unveiled a brand new product yesterday. It wasn’t an upgraded Spectacle 4 glasses, but an affordable smart drone that weighs nothing compared to other well-known drones. Snap’s first drone is called Pixy, and the company says that it can get you five to eight flights if we assume that each flight is anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds.
It’s fair to say, not many people expected to see Snap give hardware another try, but they did it, and the Pixy drone brings a lot of cool new features in an affordable and small form factor. It has everything you’d need when traveling or going out to spend time with friends and family, and it looks like the perfect tool to capture moments from an entirely new perspective.
Pixy Drone Specifications
Before we get to the features and other details, let’s get the specifications out of the way to know what we’re looking at. The Pixy drone weighs only 101 grams, and it appears to be slightly larger than the palm of your hand. Pixy has swappable batteries that make it easy to change a drained battery to a fully charged one in just a few seconds. Each flight is designed to last anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds, and the battery is large enough to provide five to eight flights on a single charge.
The drone has a dial on top that lets you select from six pre-programmed flight patterns. The drone cannot be controlled manually, and it doesn’t come with a controller. It can take off and land on your palm with ease.
The drone itself costs $229.99, and it comes with a bumper, a carrying strap, a rechargeable battery, and a USB-C cable. The $249.99 model gets you the same setup, but it comes with a dual battery charger and two batteries, instead of one. Additional batteries cost only $19.99, while the dual battery charger costs $49.99. The Pixy drone is already available in the US and France.
While it isn’t exactly a feature or a specification, it’s fun to see how Snap packages its new drone. The Pixy box strangely brings iPhone 5C vibes with its transparent and plastic package that lets you see through and view the drone before opening it. It also has a bright colour, making it stand out even more.
Why did Snap develop a drone?
Well, it appears that TheVerge had the same question, to which Evan Spigel, the CEO of Snap, replied: “Because we’re a camera company.”
Snapchat started out as an ephemeral messaging app that was most popular for disappearing and deleting text messages and pictures. The platform peaked around 2016, but it hasn’t been the same since. Snapchat received a lot of criticism over the years for its lackluster app design interface, and the camera quality on Android is still far from what we’d call acceptable.
The application received a lot of updates, and Snapchat realized that it should’ve focused more on Android users, but it never managed to get the love back from its users who had already moved on to using different messaging services. Still, Snapchat has a lot of users today, and it’s trying to innovate and integrate AR (Augmented Reality) into everyday products, and the Pixy drone is also built on that principle.
Affordable drone with cool AR features
The Pixy drone lets you capture moments from a unique perspective. It’s better than carrying around a selfie stick, and it’s completely hands-free. The drone lets you view, edit, and export footage in the Snapchat app. However, you’ll most likely manage your videos in the app as it enables you to use the AR features and filters that you can share straight to your friends on Snapchat and other social media services.
Pixy has a single 12MP camera, and it’s essentially a flying smartphone, albeit, the camera is everything but impressive. Footage that TheVerge captured shows what the camera can achieve in great and dimly lit conditions. It also shows the flaws of not having any object detection sensors on the device.
The camera appears to have plenty of detail and contrast when outside on a sunny day, but it can be a bit grainy and noisy in dimly lit environments. The video isn’t very smooth when the drone rotates, but future updates could smoothen and further stabilize the recordings. Given the fact that most people consume content on their smartphones, and the drone is intended for Snapchat users, it’s clear that the recorded content is designed to be viewed on smartphones. The quality is less likely to be an issue on such small displays, but some artifacts are visible on a monitor or a laptop. It’s something to keep in mind, and you shouldn’t expect a DJI-level performance for this kind of money.
Snapchat is well-known for its cool and unique AR features, and even the Pixy website highlights some of the effects that you can apply to make it truly yours. While I’m personally not a fan of these, I see the appeal for the even younger generation, and there may be times when it could come in handy to make a point, or just play around with the animations.
Will Snap’s first Pixy drone take off?
Given Snapchat’s reputation, it’s unlikely to become a mainstream product, but it’s fun and exciting to see the development in this field. DJI’s Mini SE drone weighs less than 249 g and it can fly up to 30-minutes on a single charge. It costs $299, and you can expand the storage via a microSD card, and purchase additional battery packs – which cost more than twice as much as Pixy’s swappable batteries at $55.
DJI is still more flexible, even if it costs more. It offers better controls, greater overall quality, and much more for the money. However, you’re right to point out that Pixy is likely not aimed at the same consumers. It’s aimed at those who want something that lets you record with a press of a button, take off, capture the footage, and land on your palm. It’s quick, easy, and far more portable than any other device in its class.
Snap brought a more consumer-friendly drone to the market, and I’m genuinely happy to see such a device. It opens up a lot more opportunities and perspectives to share moments, and the small form factor, easy-to-use dial on top, and integration bring a unique experience.
I hope that other companies will take note and advance on Pixy’s ideas, because the more competition there is, the more and better products consumers will be able to choose from in the future.
While I don’t think Pixy will be a mainstream product that will sell like hotcakes, I believe there will be enough demand for it to change the drone industry. I think companies will try to replicate developing an affordable drone with simple pre-programmed features that lets you take hands-free videos and photos on-the-go. I can see this as an appealing product for those who want to up their Instagram and Snapchat game. For technology enthusiasts like myself, the DJI drones will likely be more attractive for the time being, until at least the quality can get better, and the drone can pack a few additional sensors to improve object detection and tracking.