Snap's Pixy drone wants you to Snapchat from the sky - what you need to know

Snap Pixy
(Image credit: Snap)

Snap, which long ago rebranded itself as a camera company, is now stepping into the drone space with its new Pixy flying camera.

The creators of the popular social media platform Snapchat like to call Pixy a camera, but it has all the earmarks of a sophisticated consumer drone. Snap unveiled the gadget on Thursday.

With the tap of a button, the drone autonomously flies to a predetermined height (up to 30 ft) along one of four preset paths (set through a dial on top of the gizmo); it then keep its camera trained on you as it captures photos or video. When Pixy is done, Snap says it will automatically land in your hand. Like traditional drones, the roughly palm-sized Pixy has four rotors, which are safely hidden under a bright-yellow body.

It's also clear that Pixy is made for Snapchat and not drone enthusiasts. It appears to do everything itself, including wirelessly transmitting videos to Snapchat Memories (similar to how Snap's Spectacles work). Once there, you can edit the videos with the app's built-in tools -- including effects like Hyperspeed, Orbit, and Jump Cut-- before sharing them on Snapchat.

Snap Pixy

(Image credit: Snap)

You do not control Pixy's flight through your phone, nor can you see what the drone sees until the video is downloaded to your phone (Pixy supports Bluetooth, 5G, and 802.11 b,g, n, and ac Wi-Fi).

Image and video transfer are also possible via a USB cable connection, Snap told TechRadar, and you can export your photos and videos to platforms other than Snapchat.

The image quality sounds decent. Inside Pixy is a 20MP sensor that shoots 12MP images and videos of 2.7k at 30 fps. There is some onboard storage, a 16MB flash drive that can hold 100 videos or 1,000 photos.

The Pixy specs

Pixy is considerably lighter than most traditional consumer drones, weighing in at just 101 grams (putting it in the range of a small smartphone). While Snap isn't saying exactly how long Pixy's replaceable battery lasts (in minutes or hours), the battery is good, the company claims, for between five and eight flights. Snap does not say how long each flight might last. Pixy's batteries take 40 minutes for a full recharge (so perhaps you'll want to purchase a backup battery or portable power station).

Snap representatives told TechRadar that Pixy lacks obstacle detection but will safely land if it unexpectedly hits something. There is, in the updated Snapchat app, a "Land" button if you want to bring Pixy down right away.

Pixy is equipped with some sensors, though. We also learned from Snap that Pixy has a second camera and a sensor on the bottom that detects your hand for landing. It uses the camera on the front to take photos and video, but also to identify your face and body so it can track them for the photos and video.

Snap is already selling Pixy for $229.99 in the US and France, but only while supplies last.

It's a drone

Snap isn't breaking any new ground here when it comes to autonomous drones. But since Pixy requires zero knowledge or the ability to use or control a drone, folks could find it more attractive than, say, the DJI Mavic Air (which is also considerably more expensive).

We've certainly seen other "selfie drones," including this AirSelfie drone at CES 2020.

Still, no drone has even had such a large potential built-in social media market. Snap is counting on SnapChat members' desperate need for new and exciting ways to share their totally not mundane lives.

By building a drone with no setup and enough intelligence to do all the hard parts (tracking, launch, and landing) for you, Snap might've solved how to grow the drone market with people who have zero interest in drones.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.