From unmanned remote-control helicopters to manned mini aircraft, the personal spy game has gone aerial. If you want to keep tabs on an untrustworthy business partner, a shady neighbor, a sticky-fingered roommate or a frisky significant other, there is a flying product out there designed specifically for the task. Here is a rundown of the coolest and most covert devices on the market, including some you can even control with your smartphone.
This micro-sized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is piloted via Wi-Fi connection to any iPhone, iPod, iTouch or iPad, with a range of up to 300 feet. You can steer by tilting the device, and adjust altitude by using touch buttons. The quadricopter uses two cameras to stream video directly to your gadget and ensure smooth landings after a single charge’s 15 minutes maximum flight time.
Its size, super-quiet rotors and motors, and stellar maneuvering make this device perfect for indoor use. With 2,000 feet per minute climbing speed, ability to carry a camera, and relatively low price, the QuadPod is a quadcopter hobbyist’s dream --customizable for almost any mission. The battery provides 10 minutes of flight time and a payload capacity of 0.33 pounds.
AERIAL PRODUCTS’ LIGHTER THAN AIR SURVEILLANCE (LTAS) SYSTEMS
If your surveillance needs last more than 10 minutes, a balloon or helium-powered UAV is your best option. While not very subtle, LTAS systems have almost unlimited flight time, can carry up to 200 pounds (plenty for a point-and-click SLR camera or full-size high-def video camera) and can reach up to 2,500 feet in the air.
DRAGANFLY TANGO TANDEM WING PLANE
This airplane-shaped UAV uses tandem front and rear wings to increase in-air stability at low speeds -- ideal for shooting aerial photography and real time video, both able to be streamed to a computer or the unit’s base station. The Tango can be operated via remote or set to operate autonomously.
Cost: $10,000 (radio-controlled) or $24,000 (autonomous)
SENSEFLY SWINGLET CAM
Want your own spy plane? The Swinglet’s the next best thing: a flying wing with stabilizers and a rear propeller that takes off, flies and lands all on its own. Plus, it streams airspeed, ground speed, aircraft position and battery strength with flight control software and GPS to preprogram and initiate a sequence of photography for its 12-megapixel belly-mounted camera.
MICRO AERIAL PROJECTS MICRODRONE MD4-200
While a bit pricey for amateurs, this is still one of the best-equipped personal microdrones. Capable of preprogrammed or controlled flights of up to 20 minutes, it can be equipped with a 12-megapixel still or high-def video camera to capture aerial footage. Other options: a thermal imaging camera, air and gas monitors, radiation detectors, cell phone jammers and more.
MOSQUITO XE ULTRALIGHT HELICOPTER
Forget the unmanned drones. Buzz your target Top Gun-style in a single-seat 20-feet long, 298-pound aircraft for licensed sport pilots. Topping out at 75 mph, it carries up to 240 pounds, and can fly up to 8,000 feet. Options include floats and a 5-gallon tank for aquatic takeoffs and landings.
Cost: $32,000 (kit) or $40,500 (built)
Designed for professional photographers and amateur spies, this little helicopter’s equipped with eight brushless rotor blades, powered by eight low-noise electric motors, and an onboard processor running custom navigation software. When properly outfitted, the X8 can capture a wide variety of data, such as thermal images, SLR-quality photography and high-definition video.
Made entirely of carbon fiber composite, this has to be the coolest-looking, most compact manned float plane ever made. Weighing less than 155 pounds with a wingspan of 16.4 feet and top speed of 87 mph, it’s propelled by a 24- or 35-horsepower gas-powered engine -- or a whisper-quiet 20kW electric motor for stealth missions over your neighbor’s yacht.
Cost: $36,000 to $38,800
All right, this one is a bit over-the-top, but it’s still one of the most badass UAVs on the market. Point to a location on a Google map on the touch-screen controller to send the robot there at 30 mph to record high-quality video and beam stills to the controller or an iPhone in real time. The Scout can fly to an altitude of 500 feet, and the built-in camera can zoom in to a close-up from almost 985 feet away.
If you think building your own UAV is more fun than buying one ready-made, the AeroQuad is for you. This do-it-yourself special lets you mix and match components -- from accelerometers and gyroscopes to custom body kits and navigation systems -- to create your ultimate flying machine. Only thing holding you back is the limit of your imagination … and available credit.
QUIET KEYBOARD This wireless rechargeable keyboard won’t make a sound no matter how hard you whack at the keys. Although the diNovo Edge might frustrate your attempts to show off your tireless work ethic to the boss, you can surf Internet dating sites all night without tipping off your girlfriend.
MULTILINGUAL MARVEL Expensive enough to require valet parking, the Optimus Maximus keyboard displays letters and control icons with a light-emitting OLED. It’s customizable for multitasking in multiple codes and languages -- including Cyrillic, ancient Greek, Arabic and HTML -- or for more ambitious activities like video gaming.
LASER SHOW No bigger than a cigarette lighter, the Celluon Virtual Keyboard connects to your computer using a USB dongle and emits an awesome laser-generated keyboard and mouse that allows you to work virtually -- and connect with your inner Obi Wan Kenobi.
BACK TO THE FUTURE Drawing from last century’s gilded sensibilities, this custom, retro-futuristic keyboard will make your desktop worthy of H.G. Wells’ office space. “The Marquis” keyboard has acanthus-leaf engraving on polished brass and key lettering engraved on a mirrored gold acrylic. It’ll make you the envy of any century.
LIGHT FINGER FOLLIES Every time you touch its keys, the Luxeed U7 lights up like the Las Vegas strip -- bringing a little bit of Studio 54 to your dancing fingers. Make sure they dress sharply and get their names on the list -- this is one exclusive keyboard!
PURE LUXURY: BENTLEY MULSANNE The new Bentley Mulsanne's unrivaled pedigree stands out from the pack with an ultra-smooth and more-than-capable 505 hp, 6.8-liter V8 engine that glides from 0 to 62 mph in 5.3 whisper-quiet seconds. As befits its luxury status, the car can be completely customized to taste with over 1 billion possible variations, according Bentley Motors.
STANDOUT CONVERTIBLE: MORGAN AERO 8 Although its production recently ceased, this classically styled roadster is still one of the most fun, head-turning vehicles to roam the highways. While completely hand-built with more than 100 years of heritage packed into the coachwork, its BMW 4.4-liter V8 pumps out 312 hp -- moving this homage to yesteryear from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.2 seconds.
Tiny Tower seems like a simple, if not silly, game. But that's how it gets you addicted. The premise, like SimCity, is to build your own world -- in this case a tower. The more floors you build, the more money you can make to spend on building more floors ... and the hook is set.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
How many passwords do you have to remember? Thanks to 1Password, you can keep all of your security codes safe and secure on your smartphone. All you have to do is remember one four-digit code and a master passcode, and the info is encrypted and backed up on your computer.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
Yes, the camera on the iPhone 4S is better than previous incarnations. But besides flash and zoom, it leaves us a little cold. Turn your 4S into a virtual DSLR with all the bells and whistles you get with said device, plus all the features you’d expect from a smartphone, such as visual filters.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Even if you were born in the CD era, chances are you remember mixed tapes. Bring them into the digital age with the app that turns your digital music player into a virtual portable cassette deck that blasts loaded playlists and helps you create the perfect mix to play and then share on Facebook.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Didn't you hear? The end of the world is happening on Dec. 21, 2012. Skeptical? Then check out this app, which explores all the coincidences between the Mayan prediction and what science says. At the very least you'll be prepared to handle the impending end of time.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
The premise of KaleidaCam is simple: Turn your iPhone's camera into a kaleidoscope. You can adjust the trippy-ness of the created image by choosing one of four to 10 slides. It leads to hours of mindless fun for the whole family. You can even take pictures of your creations and send them to Facebook and Twitter.Platforms: iPhone
This mobile app puts Thrillist reviews in the palm of your hand so you can be the guy who knows the coolest places to eat, drink and shop. Using your device's GPS function, it'll tell you the top places to spend your time and money in more than 19 cities. You'll never have a boring night again.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android
'Tis the season for holiday parties, full of finger foods, drinks and treats. This app will track your weight well into the new year so you can stop the festivities from settling around your waist. Just log your bites, licks and tastes, and the food database will calculate the calories you've consumed. Then log your workouts to determine how many calories you burned.Platforms: iPhone, iPad
If you thrive on new music, this is a must-have app. Band of the Day introduces you to an artist that you need to know about every day. You get a bio, a song to listen to, a stream of Facebook/Twitter comments about the artist, videos to view and a list of albums that you can buy, right from the app.Platforms: iPhone
Think of this app as your secret weapon to achieving culinary nirvana. It puts all of the advice from the well-respected epicurean website of the same name in the palm of your hand. We love the seasonal options on the home screen that help make sure your feasts are weather-appropriate.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Nook, Windows Phone
Finding a new place to hang your hat just got a whole lot easier, thanks to the new Trulia mobile app. The clean design of the interface makes it a snap to search homes to rent or to buy Features include sort by price, search by location, and email real estate agents directly.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
The latest incarnation of the Bloons game franchise gets the smart-phone makeover, and it is still as addictive as ever. The objective remains the same: prevent balloons from getting from one part of the maze to the other using your arsenal of dart monkeys, rockets, battleships and other WMDs.Platforms: iPhone, iPad
The latest army of food carts has turned most city streets into a mobile gourmet road show. But how do you know when your favorite Korean BBQ truck will be by your office? Using Google maps and your iPhone's GPS, StreetEats lets you track your favorite carts and see which ones are in your immediate area and how long they'll be there.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
With all of the news available to us, it's hard to cut through the noise and get what you're looking for. Editions by AOL is an app that curates a custom, easy-to-navigate daily newsmagazine based on your interests, location, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The more you use the app, the more highly customized it becomes.Platforms: iPad
Sick of the same old vodka martinis? Not sure what to do with that bottle of amaretto? InMyBar's simple interface lets you plug in all the booze you have in your liquor cabinet. Then, the app creates a list of all the cocktails you can make, or it lets you know what remaining ingredients you need in order to make a specific drink.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Music nerds, welcome to heaven. This app tracks music blogs and culls their favorite tunes from the Web, then lets you create your dream radio station. The genre section alone offers more than 100 options -- perfect for deep dives into your particular mood. You can even track what your friends are listening to.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Watch your favorite music videos in HD with VEVO HD, which features 45,000 videos, including intimate performances by your favorite artists; a music map showing which videos people are listening to in your area; artist tour information; and ticket-buying capabilities.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Meeting a lovely lady is now as easy as whipping out your ... cell phone. Blendr collects your favorite interests and then helps match you up with female companions who live in your area and have similar interests. Browse photos, check in to venues and even chat with folks from your own neighborhood.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
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