An Amazing Dronescope | The Charm (and Addictiveness) of Live Video Streams

I had to delete the Periscope app from my iPad—I was wasting too much time. I’d become addicted, so I was proud of myself for having gone cold turkey. But then a few days later I remembered that I had a Periscope app on my Apple TV, such that I could watch the live video streams on my HDTV. I gave in to temptation.

And I’m glad I did. I was flipping through the live streams and saw one labeled “Dronescope: I’ve taped my iPhone to my drone.” That got my attention. I began the stream, and there I was, flying a couple thousand feet above New York Harbor, watching the boat traffic below—live. It was like being in an airplane. As the drone flew, a soundtrack played in the background, with a stentorian male voice speaking between songs.

In the distance was the Statue of Liberty. And then the drone began its descent. Gradually a pier came into view, and as the drone descended you could begin to make out the shape of a man standing on the pier. The drone got closer and closer, and gracefully landed at his feet, giving us a view of his shoes.

Drone pilot Corey Bradshaw picked up his drone, detached his iPhone, and continued his Periscope, explaining to his hundreds of viewers how he had managed this dronescope.

Periscope continues to get more and more popular, and now Facebook has also gotten into the act. The appeal is this: anyone, anywhere in the world, with a smartphone and an Internet connection can broadcast live video to the world.

When I watch Periscope on my HDTV while I exercise in the early morning, my favorites are those where people stream the sun rising over the ocean. But you can see almost anything: the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, geisha spotting in Japan, a policeman in his squad car answering questions, various and sundry preachers, people venting, young people flirting. If there’s a natural disaster or an incident somewhere in the world, you’ll find someone streaming it live.

Often local news stations will broadcast. Tune in, and you’ll typically see a couple newscasters sitting there joking around and making faces. Then a short countdown before they go live on the air. Suddenly they switch to their serious newscaster demeanor and start reading the next news report.

The Periscope app is free, and once it’s installed on your smartphone, you can see a list of people currently broadcasting live streams, or you can view a map marked with the locations around the world where people are streaming. Tap on a location, and you’ll get a list of those streaming from that location.

Tap on one of the items in the list and you’ll see the live stream. You can interact with the person streaming by tapping in text messages. You can see the text messages that people are sending scroll up the screen. Or you can turn off the chat and just view the stream.

If some particular person interests you, you can follow that person. And you can choose to receive alerts from the Periscope app whenever people you follow are live. You can also view a list of the live broadcasts currently going on of people you follow, as well as broadcasts they’ve done the past day.

It’s quite simple, too, to do your own broadcast, though I haven’t tried that yet.

Periscope is a great way to look in on all corners of the planet. It’s popular in Kazakhstan, for example, and sometimes you’ll find people broadcasting in other countries who are speaking in English, or who are switching between their native language and English. It’s fascinating to be inside the home of someone in Dubai and hear his perspective on things.

Periscope is amazing, and then Corey Bradshaw took it to a new level, taping his iPhone to a drone and broadcasting from a couple thousand feet in the air. This is just the beginning. You can imagine more and more people streaming aerial video, and it’s likely that consumer drones will soon add this feature.

Facebook also has a live-streaming capability, and YouTube is said to be working on one, too.

I encourage you to give Periscope a try. And if you become addicted, I hope you have the willpower to delete the app from your smartphone or tablet.

© 2016 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D. See column archives at