No, this video wasn’t shot with a traditional helicopter and huge video cameras. In fact, neither was this one. Both sequences were filmed using a new accessory for the popular GoPro camera. It’s called the DJI Phantom, and it’s described as an “aerial drone helicopter” for your GoPro. The videos captured using this expensive toy are breathtaking — I found myself having to move my head from one side of my monitor to the other to ensure I didn’t miss anything.
The Drone is a USB Bluetooth adapter. At $49.95 it is quite a bit pricier than most other Bluetooth adapters on the market, but the Drone is an adapter with a twist.
In fact, the Drone has several twists that make it well worth the price in my opinion. For starters – the Callpod Drone actually works as an audio adapter when first installed. This may not mean much to you, but if you just need a Bluetooth adapter to use for a (stereo) headset, then why bother installing a large package of software when you only need a tiny portion of it?
Another advantage of not having to deal with software is quite simple – not all computers allow it. Many work laptops are locked down against installations, and most public Internet terminals may have open USB ports, but also have software installs blocked. In many cases, the Drone can simply bypass this.
When you plug the Drone into your computer, it installs in seconds, and shows up in your device manager as a standard USB audio device. USB audio support has been built into all Windows versions since XP, so no drivers or other settings are required.
To use a Bluetooth headset with the Drone, you simply place it in “pairing mode” by pressing its only button, and you instantly have a Bluetooth audio connection with your PC. This is of course ideal for Skype or any other voice application, but it also works very well if you pair it with a stereo headset.
The Drone also offers a much larger range than most other Bluetooth adapters. In my not-so-scientific trials, I was able to reach twice as far in my house using the Drone than I normally can with the built in Bluetooth on my computer. The manufacturer rated range for the Drone is 100 meters, which I can confirm is accurate.
When you pair the Drone with the Callpod Dragon Bluetooth headset, you get to take advantage of the extended range in both devices. This combination let me walk out to the end of my back yard without a single crackle or drop in the Bluetooth connection.
Users who still want to use the adapter as a regular Bluetooth device, can switch it to “software mode” by holding down the button on the device. Of course, this also means you’ll need to install the 60MB software package, offered for free by Callpod on their site. Vista and Windows 7 users won’t need the software – Bluetooth support is built into their operating system.
All in all a very nice little device that finally makes Bluetooth hassle free. At $49.95 it may seem overpriced when compared to other Bluetooth adapters, but its additional features make it well worth the price if you often find yourself in need of no-fuss Bluetooth audio or an extended range Bluetooth signal.
The Callpod Drone is available directly from Callpod ($49.95) or from Amazon ($33.07).
While much attention is paid to the border between the United States and Mexico, our neighbors to the north have yet to encounter the scrutiny that they deserve. No prison-like fences or vigilante minutemen have stood in the way of people sneaking back and forth between the United States and Canada. Well, the U.S. government has decided that these shenanigans have gone on for long enough. According to Wired and the New York Times, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will use an unmanned drone aircraft to patrol a stretch of the border between the two North American allies.
The Predator B aircraft will operate out of Grand Forks (ND) Air Force Base and will be the first of its kind on the northern border. Three similar drones currently patrol the border with Mexico. Residents of North Dakota and “a slim part of Minnesota” can now sleep easy knowing that a remote-controlled airplane is buzzing overhead and keeping maple syrup, hockey and the word “eh” where they belong.
Surely a great deal of research went into the decision to have the $10 million unmanned aircraft patrol just a 300 mile stretch of the 5,525 mile long border with our ally, right? Well, John Stanton, executive director of the Customs and Border Protection service’s national air security operations was asked if he expected the drone to uncover a rash of drug smuggling, illegal immigration or terrorism. His response: “We hope to actually use this aircraft to measure that. You don’t know what you don’t know.” Neat!
But at least these drones are foolproof. Well, about that. The drone was supposed to arrive in North Dakota last Thursday. Because of maintenance issues, it arrived on Saturday. And a similar drone on the southern border crashed in 2006 outside of Nogales, Arizona. No one was killed, but it did narrowly miss hitting a house. The cause of the accident was found to be human error.
Well, it may sound like a boondoggle, but I am certainly relieved that someone will be keeping an eye on those hosers. We’re still recovering from the Celine Dion invasion of the 1990s. There’s just no telling what they could sneak in next. Pray that it isn’t curling.