TLDR: It’s the drone that flies like a dream, caters to beginners and costs under $100
We’re all in agreement. Drones are cool. And with everybody wanting to get their hands on the controls of these awesome big-kid toys, the variety of drone options is quickly becoming as vast as the sky itself.
Top-end models for deep pocketed pilots can rival the price of a used car. But if you’re like the rest of us, just looking to get into drone flying with a quality, easy to use craft at a reasonable price, the Ryze Tech Tello Quadcopter Powered by DJI is turning some heads. It’s available right now from TNW Deals for just $99.
Beginners will feel right at home with the Tello Quadcopter. It connects quickly to controls on a smartphone or even a wireless gaming controller. At just under four inches across, you can easily launch the craft right out of your hand — or just by flipping it into the air. The unit’s automatic takeoff and landing feature make it simple for new flyers to get started safely. And there’s even low battery protection that’ll help the Tello land itself if it’s running low on juice.
When you’re airborne, the drone’s on-board camera can shoot and transmit your video in HD 720p resolution with image stabilization as you run through an assortment of pre-set camera moves like 360-degree pans or selfie tracking shots. Of course, if you want to fly like a bat out of hell, the Tello can also handle all the crazy flips and other nifty aerobatics found in drones that are much more expensive.
The Tello flies for up to 13 minutes on a single charge, allowing you to capture fantastic aerial video or just fly casually for longer than many other starter drones.
We could make a bad pun here about how the Tello Quadcopter can get your piloting career off the ground…but we respect you enough not to. Instead, we appeal to your love for saving money by getting this great starter drone in the sub-$100 range before this deal expires. Or snag the Ryze Tech Tello Boost Combo Quadcopter for $149.
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Prices are subject to change.
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Now much more than harmless toys, commercial drone usage is becoming an urgent issue for users and regulators alike. Delivery drones will very shortly take up a significant proportion of airspace in some places: both Google and Amazon were recently given approval by the FAA (The Federal Aviation Authority) to operate as an airline and deliver products by drone in the US. Aside from deliveries, many companies now use drones for their work—photography, infrastructure maintenance, agriculture—and there is no standard framework for insuring these entirely novel devices, which leads to quotes that are prohibitively expensive and drones flying without cover.
The increased usage of drones, and the limited amount of flight data available to build insurance policies and ensure safe operation, calls for far greater insight into how drones are flown. In turn, the use of reliable data and artificial intelligence can make drones safer and more accountable so that they can be trusted amongst other aircraft and no longer fly under the regulatory radar.
Drone companies and regulators seem to be filling in the gaps in each other’s knowledge and capabilities to reach a solution that suits everyone. DJI, the market leader in drones with around 75% of the market share, has chosen to put transponders in all its drones from 2020 to dramatically improve visibility and communication between drones and other aircraft in flight. Regulators have also met manufacturers and enterprise operators halfway by granting probationary licenses like those offered to Amazon and Google, allowing preliminary usage to ascertain exactly how safe drone fleets can be. Incidents like that in Mexico City last year, in which a passenger plane flying into Tijuana was struck by a drone in the final descent and had its nose cone obliterated, prove why proper regulations and responsible development can’t come quickly enough. Drones are comparable to aircraft and can be dangerous without proper oversight—“they’re basically flying chainsaws” says Jeff Thompson, the founder and CEO of Red Cat—so the onus is now on drone manufacturers and operators to prove that large scale drone usage will not pose a significant risk in the air and on the ground.
For drones to get significantly safer, however, we need to know how they fly, what the most common problems are, and that drone pilots are responsible and accountable for their aircraft. As is increasingly the case these days, data could solve the majority of these issues, but at the moment that information is not being generated. Red Cat is one of several companies trying to increase the digital visibility of drones, and has identified and labeled common features and problems that can make drones unsafe. “We identified events in the log files and then using AI we matched those events to flight features such as takeoff, landing, and yaw. From there, the AI used that information to identify real problems in the drone industry like oscillation,” says Thompson. Gathering this in-flight data on drones and linking that data to real-world problems will help to design drones that are reliable and safe enough for commercial flight, but gathering and analyzing this information at scale is hard.
This lack of visibility makes it difficult to insure drones, and insurers simply have no framework for how to provide cover for drones or enough reliable data to help them figure it out. “Everyone’s trying to figure out the best way to do it,” says Thompson, “the insurance companies are all ears and willing to work with companies but they’re going to wait for [companies] to supply that data.” Proof of responsible ownership and operating practices would be a boon to a huge number of companies currently operating drones without proper insurance. Whether using drones to survey civil infrastructure, to photograph weddings or even to investigate insurance claims, commercial users need proper insurance that will not put them out of business. “If all of a sudden [insurance companies] had all the data—you can prove you’ve completed a thousand flights, you haven’t hurt anybody, you’ve undertaken all the proper checks and precautions—they could quote $200 a month and $3000 in liability, compared to $3M liability now without that track record,” suggests Thompson.
Blockchain black box
In an effort to improve this situation for all involved, Red Cat is also utilizing blockchain technology to ensure that data is tamper-proof and that flight records can be reliable enough to meet existing aviation standards. Explaining their technology, Thompson says “it basically replicates a lot of the features of a black box on a commercial flight, which allows you to record all information of a flight”—something I was surprised to find is not already a standard feature of drones. This kind of record can avoid tampering by malicious pilots themselves—currently “drone flight replays are .txt files, literally just plain text, so a pilot could easily change that data” according to Thompson, “we want to be trusted by governments to secure their data, so that if a drone falls out of the sky no-one can access that information.” Having an inviolable record of a drone’s flight path, all its maneuvres and interactions with other aircraft would mean that drones could be trusted to fly by warrant of their transparency, and that other aircraft would not be interfered with as has been proven to be possible, if not plausible.
This is a key issue for regulators, who are taking the same approach as insurers regarding drone safety, effectively “telling the industry: ‘give us better technology and we’ll give you more regulations,’” according to Thompson. Regulators seem to be treating the issue maturely and with the gravity that drones deserve. The FAA has issued a set of guidelines for commercial drone operators to bring drones up to the same level of accountability and safety standards as other aircraft. Other companies are also joining the charge: Airbus has partnered with other international aviation authorities to try and define a set of regulations for commercial drone usage, as part of their own eventual foray into unmanned delivery drones. Regulators and enterprises working together to define safety standards is perhaps the best possible outcome for an emerging technology, and their efforts seem to be keeping pace with the growth of drone usage. Considering that huge multinationals have expressly stated their intention to start using drones at an unprecedented scale as soon as possible, defining really solid regulations now is completely appropriate.
Regulate and proliferate
The unstoppable march of progress spares no-one, and drones are no exception. Buzzing overhead with packages, filming urban movie scenes with minimal disruption, surveying property, bridges and utility systems, tending to urban allotments, fertilizing industrial agriculture plots, and verifying convoluted insurance claims: if drones are not already doing it they soon will be. It is refreshing then that regulators and companies are collaborating to ensure the smooth and safe integration of commercial drones within our existing legal and aviation systems.
Improving the safety of drones is a multi-faceted problem however, and it is not as simple as building better drones, creating anti-drone munitions or using eagles to pluck them from the sky. The safe development of drones needs to utilize the advanced technology available to us, and a sincere commitment to ensure that—as they will become ubiquitous whether we like it or not—drones will not pose any sort of risk to humans or aircraft. Steps by companies like DJI, Airbus, and Red Cat will go some way to solving a crisis before it happens, and the next move for regulators is to harness a steady stream of drone flight data to craft safe and fair regulations for all.
As August is a month of rest for so many of you, I will be back in September. Best wishes for the Summer break.
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In something of a growing trend, we have reviewed quite a few truly wireless headphone sets recently with more in the pipeline. Of course, the number of recent reviews is just a reaction to this fast growing market segment where wireless headphones are getting better, cheaper, and more available. Our latest review unit is the $150 ALLY from Cleer Audio and they sound fantastic. So good, in fact, that they are almost my favorite truly wireless set. What holds them back? Read on to find out.
The Cleer Ally are, in my opinion, the perfectly designed completely wireless earbuds. They are compact with a couple of small wings that hold them perfectly in your ears and soft rubbery tips for a comfortable fit. There are multiple sizes in the box for different sized ears but I found the standard sizes to be perfect. The Cleer Ally are also IP5X rated for water resistance so feel free to sweat away at the gym while wearing them.
The review unit Cleer Audio provided is black but they are also available in a brilliant metallic red. There’s an LED ring on each earbud that glows red, blue, or white to indicate connection status, pairing mode, and battery level.
There are no physical buttons on the Cleer Ally earbuds, rather they use capacitive pads for control. Tap to pause, answer calls, reject calls, etc. Not having to press a button and push the headphones into your ear is the way to go on these types of units. No pain but all the functionality. A nice feature that I haven’t seen on any other earbuds is that they auto-pause when removed from your ears. It’s a nice to have feature that helps to set the Ally apart.
There’s also a carrying case that acts as a portable charger for the earbuds. It’s a compact grey box with a clear lid. The lid is held in place magnetically. Cleer also includes a little fabric pouch to hold the case. The one problem, in fact my only problem, with the Cleer Ally is that the case charges via microUSB. In 2019 that’s just unacceptable. Truly wireless headphones are perfect for travel, commuting, work, etc. but it’s a royal pain to have to worry about having a special charger just for headphones. The tech world, minus Apple, has gone USB-C and it’s time for the whole of the industry to get on board.
PERFORMANCE – BATTERY
Cleer states the Ally will get up to 30 hours (10 in the earbuds and 20 from the case) which is about as good as it gets for wireless earbuds. It’s really hard to validate 30 hours of usage since headphones are typically used off and on and not straight through. I can say that the Cleer Ally last a long time. With my usage I could make it a week or two between charges. And with a five minute charge you can get an hour or so of additional playback.
PERFORMANCE – AUDIO
The Cleer Ally headphones sound absolutely fantastic. They support SBC, AAC, and aptX codecs over BlueTooth 5.0. They have a 5.8 mm driver and support the full audio range of 20-20,000 Hz. To my old ears the Cleer Ally are the clearest, purest sounding wireless earbuds I’ve used.
To try and maintain some consistency between my headphone reviews I have put together a short list of songs that encapsulate diverse musical styles. My thoughts on how those songs sound with the Creative headphones are below.
Led Zeppelin – Fool In The Rain (2012 remaster): Fool in the Rain sounds absolutely amazing on the Cleer Ally headphones. Every note is there for the hearing and they sound great.
Humble Pie – 30 Days In The Hole: Again, the Cleer Ally headphones absolutely deliver on Humble Pie’s classic. Everything is clear. The voices are bright and warm.
The Piano Guys – The Cello Song: The Cello Song sounds fantastic on the Cleer Ally headphones. You can hear every scrape of bow against strings.
Harry Roy – Wah De Da De (Remix): The recording quality of this 1930’s near-classic isn’t the greatest but the remix sounds great through the Cleer Ally earbuds.
Even at $150 and the higher price end of the wireless headphone market the Cleer Ally earbuds are a great choice. They sound amazing – better than any other wireless headphones I’ve tested. They sound so good that they almost make up for use of microUSB as the charging solution. If the lack of USB-C doesn’t bother you like it does me then I highly recommend you check out the Cleer Ally wireless headphones. You won’t regret it.
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The budget smartphone market in the US is owned by Google’s Android and is populated with phones from a very diverse group – Motorola, BLU Products, Alcatel, Nokia, Honor, and more. Coolpad is another name, if a somewhat goofy one, to add to this list of manufacturers. Not a household name in the US, perhaps, but one to watch out for in the coming years if the Legacy is anything to judge by.
I must say that I’m pretty impressed with the looks of the Coolpad Legacy. It’s available in only one color – what Coolpad calls Quicksilver. The phone frame is aluminum and the back is all plastic but the colors are matched very well and the feel of the phone is pretty high end. The sides are nicely rounded which makes it comfortable to hold. The corners are rounded as well but then they fade into flat surfaces on either end. There’s a nice heft, as well, that contributes to the premium feel.
The top of the phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom has a USB-C port that supports Qualcomm QC 3.0 and a single speaker. The rear of the device has a 16 MP dual-camera setup and a fingerprint reader. Volume and power buttons are on the right side and the SIM/microSD slot is on the left.
The front of the phone is dominated by a large 6.4 inch 1080×2160 LCD display. The screen looks fantastic, as far as LCDs go. The resolution is plenty high enough for most applications. It’s covered in Gorilla Glass 3 which is a nice bonus at this price point. There are narrow side bezels but somewhat larger top and bottom bezels.
The phone doesn’t look anything like a $150 phone and I think most folks that end up with the Legacy will be quite happy with the way it looks and feels. It is the rare piece of tech that seems like a bargain.
The Coolpad Legacy is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage. As such, it is not the fastest phone on the market but you will find that it compares favorably to other devices in the segment that often use older SD processors (Moto E series) or MediaTek platforms (almost anything from BLU). In daily use the Legacy performs fine. OS navigation is quick and reliable. Apps open respectably quickly. You won’t get the instant feedback and response that most of today’s top flagships deliver but the Legacy does deliver acceptable performance for the price. Geekbench 4 scores the Legacy at 3859, somewhere in the range of the US Samsung Galaxy S7. The Legacy also has a 4,000 mAh battery which is quite large for this segment and will easily get you through most of a day.
The phone ships with Android 9, which is a nice mark in the plus column, and since I received the review unit it has been updated to the June 2019 security release. There’s very little custom software installed. The unit I received for review is the Metro/T-Mobile version so there are a couple of carrier management apps, a visual voicemail app, and the Lookout security app. They are easily disabled which leaves you with a very bare Android canvas on which to customize the phone as you wish. One notable addition is face unlock, which works very well but may not be as secure as other unlock methods. For me, I’ll stick with the fingerprint reader.
Casual games will run quite well and the Legacy can run heavier games like PUBG though performance will vary at higher resolutions and detail levels. One of the games I commonly test against low-end phones is Hitman: Sniper and I’m pleased to say that the Coolpad Legacy runs it very well and with full detail.
Camera is the place where budget phones usually fall short and the Coolpad Legacy is no exception. The primary camera is a dual lens 16 MP shooter. It performs well enough in well lit environments but low-light performance is only OK. The camera does have all of the features most users will want – portrait, slow-mo, panorama, and HDR support. The front camera is a typical selfie camera that rings in at 13 MP. Nothing special about it but it works just fine.
There are a lot of choices for budget phones but the Coolpad Legacy is one of the best I’ve tried. It isn’t a flagship phone but is pretty close to one in certain aspects. Everything from the size to the build quality and the software build are fantastic. The camera isn’t great and the CPU isn’t the fastest but if you are looking for a phone for $150 the Coolpad Legacy is a smart choice. It’s available from Metro and Boost Mobile and is frequently featured in sales and promotions, sometimes even for free.
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdrag 450 @ 1800 MHz|
|Internal Storage||32 GB|
|microSD Support||Yes, up to 128 GB|
|OS||Android 9.0, June 2019|
|Display||6.8 inches, 1080×2160, 380 PPI|
|Main Camera||16 MP + Depth Sensor with LED Flash|
|Front Camera||13 MP|
|Fingerprint Sensor||Yes, Rear|
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Figured I’d give an update for those interested in these things covering sleep, my metro council run, and wherever I manage to roam before I have any of the people I have appointments with show today.
We’ll start in the sleeping arena. The combo of the Ooler Sleep System and the BedJet have made my memory foam mattress a cool and comfortable place for me to sleep. The addition of a medication called Pramipexole roughly ten months ago meant that as opposed to having RLS / tossing and turning four nights a week I was down to maybe once a month and assumed I was sleeping well for the first time since I was a kid. I was wrong.
The pramipexole appears to have been having some unintended side effects. I’ve been off of it for about 15 days at this point. One of these was me falling asleep or feeling like a lead curtain was pushing me down every day around noon, another was some vision issues, another was some behavioral side effects (such as little desire to write or do much other than sleep and some we’ll discuss post election / more time as I’m not sure whether they’re related,) and another was why I stopped. Might have also have lead to some mental fogginess, but I’ll figure that out when this stuff is gone from my system.
I get to watch out for DAWS now which is far worse than the above issues. Nothing so far…
On the council run, it’s been interesting. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter who represents this district it’s going to end up people being wildly polarized. I’ve managed to not say one mean or disrespectful thing about either of my opponents that I can recall, and presented my ideas without attacking theirs, and it’s still somehow managed to be what politics ends up in the district forums.
There are four more days of this, and at the end I think I’ll be able to look anyone in the eye I’ve met, or haven’t, beat, or lost to, and know that I didn’t do anything to hurt them in the pursuit of a council position.
I have a vision of where we can go and, well, it’s different than at least one of the other two people running but you know what, doesn’t make me or them evil which seems to be how this drama is played out.
Does make me once again think that people shouldn’t seek these positions, they should be forced to do them. I’d love to make my area better, if either of the other people win I’d love to work with them to do that. What I read reads like everyone’s out for power. Meh.
Politics man… I wanted to help build a safer place for my kids and neighbors…
On the Pocketables front, now that my motivation is back online and I am once again typing at a reasonable speed and awake, we’ve got some reviews coming up involving myCharge, Plex (again,) Firewalla, and a car alarm system built into a charger.
Oh yeah, I was also typing absurdly slowly… forgot about that… I’d write, re-read, and be “oh yeah, that’s a good line there… glad I wrote it…” was taking days sometimes to write little things.
Thanks once again to everyone who keeps reading, and to everyone who’s contributed to maintaining the site the past few months.
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