Drone 360 Magazine Review
for the perfect wireless communications system. After working on a project with a video production outfit, I realized how much my company could benefit from using a wireless headset when flying. But not just any wireless headset - a headset that doesn't require a base station.
Trade shows left me empty handed and somewhat discouraged. You would think I could have found a wireless headset to my liking when some shows have over 1,800 companies present. Nope. Then Tim Kidwell, Drone360 editor-in-cheif, came to the rescue and asked me to review the Eartec UltraLITE full duplex system.
And, in the interest of full transparency, Eartec and the UltraLITE system were at one of those shows I attended. It seems I got lost in the million-plus square feet of exhibits.
Eartec provided three headsets (two-single muff, and one double muff), a hard plastic carrying case, a soft-sided case, three batteries, and battery charger. A two0person base system includes a master headset (in our case, a double earmuff set) that essentially works as a base station, and a secondary headsets that connect to the main. The headsets themselves are light-weight and come with adjustable headbands.
Eartec has eliminated cables and beltpacks for this type of functionality by putting all that work on a tiny transceiver inside the headset.
You can expand the system up to five headsets, each allowing for full duplex communication - where you can talk simultaneously, like on a phone. If you're working with bigger crew, Eartec has developed a small hub you can wear on your belt that lets you connect up to nine users. In my case, our commercial operations typically use three crew members who need direct communication, so the UltraLITE system fit right in.
Single muff headsets feature a swiveling boom mic that mutes when it's tilted up, which saves on battery life. Clever. Also, the single-muff model can be worn completely over either your left or right ear.
The UltraLITE operates in the 1920-1930MHz DECT band, which means you don't need a license from the Federal Communications Commission to use them, and they're ideal for drones because they won't interfere with remote control modules or wireless camera signals.
After receiving the headsets, I called Eartec's customer support to get help walking through setting up the UltraLITE communication network - best to get the lesson directly from the people who know.
When you purchase your first set, one of the headsets will be labelled Main. Turn on the Main headset first. A blue light in the ear cup will start blinking, which means its searching for other headsets to add to its network. Next, turn on the remote headsets by pressing the power button above the volume controls. Once all the blue lights shine solid, the network is active.
While the soft carrying case ($35) provides more than enough room to carry the headsets, so does the hard case. For our field operations, we always prefer the hard case to provide that extra level of protection.
With three headsets providing full duplex wireless communications, the Eartec system allowed my team to more-easily exercise our crew resource management procedures, which help mitigate the risk of aviation accidents related to human error.
Initially, we planned to test the Eartec headsets during a documentary we were hired to film, but the monsoons in Arizona kept getting the better of us. No flying, no testing. Obviously.
Luckily, I had a public relations shoot scheduled and the weather decided to agree.
A common complaint with headsets of all types is that they tend to get sweaty and uncomfortable - especially in the desert Southwest. My team wore the UltraLITE headsets all day long. They provided crystal clear communication and, while our ears got warm, the headset never became uncomfortable to wear. You can't underestimate the importance of comfortable equipment in the field. It lets you concentrate on your job rather than fussing around with irritating gear.
Range for the headsets is exceptional.
According to Eartec, each removable and rechargeable battery pack takes about three hours to charge and operates for about six hours.
As you know, companies in the drone world, especially on the consumer side, can oversell battery life. So we conducted a battery test with the headsets and achieved over six hours of constant-on, unmuted, full duplex voice communications. Impressive, to say the least.
One note of caution: The double muff headset effectively cancels outside noise. While this would be awesome for a pair of headphones, we found that it sometimes limited situational awareness. It dampens the sound of aircraft as well as other potential hazards in the area. So its important to be even more aware of your surroundings. In our case, the double-muff was our main unit. I'd recommend getting a single-muff main unit.
All in all, the Eartec UltraLITE system is an inexpensive full-duplex headset option that can add tremendous capability to your UAS flight operations. The packaging, features set, and customer support are fantastic. I recommend this product to any commercial UAS pilots looking for an easy coms solution. - Michael Intschert