Is Snapchat’s Pixy Drone an attempt to building an AR-powered future?

Recently, Snapchat made a small and yellowish drone and debuted it in the market. Snapchat’s Pixy drone is the company’s attempt at making it friendlier and more approachable than other products available in the market.

Features of Snapchat’s Pixy Drone

In addition, Snapchat’s Pixy drone might hint at the more advanced, AR-powered future that Snap is trying to build. The Pixy is available online for $230 in the US and France starting Thursday. Unlike most existing drones, it’s small and light enough to fit in a pant pocket. There isn’t a controller; it takes off from and lands on an outstretched palm, and it uses six pre-programmed flight patterns that are accessible through a dial on the top of the device.

Snapchat’s Pixy drone weighs just 101 grams. It has a swappable battery inserted. According to the company, a full charge will get you five to eight flights, which can range from roughly 10 to 20 seconds—a short flight even by tiny drone standards. Additional batteries cost $20, and Snap sells a portable dual-battery charger for $50. The Pixy’s 12MP sensor shoots up to 100 videos or 1,000 photos, all of which are stored locally on a 16GB drive.

The footage is synced wirelessly to the Memories section of Snapchat, edited there (it doesn’t capture audio, so Snap lets you use songs it has licensed from music labels), and is then shareable directly in the app or elsewhere. Snap has included a few Pixy-specific AR effects to choose from, and I’d expect more to be added over time from the company and its creators. An auto-crop feature can quickly turn the horizontal footage into Snap’s staple vertical orientation, centered on the main subject. The video quality isn’t amazing — it’s not something you’re going to want to display on a large screen — but it’s fine enough for viewing on a phone.

Design Limitations of the Drone

The Pixy stands apart from competing for small drones with its simplicity. DJI has for years been building small drones that can take off from your hand and automatically follow you around; those drones feature longer battery life and higher-quality video, too. But these competing models are also more expensive and much more complicated to use.

There are some other limitations to Pixy’s design. Since the device is so light, you won’t want to use it in windy conditions. Snap also advises against using it over water and other shiny, reflective surfaces that could confuse its bottom camera that automates flying.

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