The much-hyped Lily drone is officially dead in the water after the company realized it wouldn’t be able to actually produce the autonomous flying camera that it had promised buyers for over a year, but the legal battle over how the whole thing shook out is just getting started. In a lawsuit filed in California alleges that the startup was doomed from the beginning, and continued to mislead customers for months, while at the same time using footage from its competitors hardware in an attempt to show its non-existent drone’s magical capabilities.
As Recode reports, the lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, and has been in the works since long before Lily publicly declared failure. The primary issue with how Lily rose to viral fame — while raking in over $30 million in pre-orders — is that the Lily drone never really existed to begin with.
In emails that were released as part of the lawsuit, Lily CEO Antoine Balaresque openly mulled the idea of lying to Lily customers by claiming that the footage shot in the promotional video was actually from a Lily drone. “I am worried that a lens geek could study our images up close and detect the unique GoPro lens footprint. 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,” he wrote.
In reality, the footage shown in the extremely popular Lily video was shot using a DJI drone and a GoPro camera. The company claimed that the footage was shot on a Lily prototype, but the suit also alleges that it simply wouldn’t have been possible since “Lily Robotics did not have a single Lily Camera prototype that had all the features advertised.”
But despite the inevitable court battle that lies ahead, it seems that Lily did do something right; The company reportedly has every cent from the customer pre-orders on hand and ready to refund to each and every buyer. The cash was held in “cold storage,” according to Recode’s source, meaning that if you were one of the many who dropped hundreds of dollars on a drone that never existed, at least you’ll get a check in the mail.