In January 2018 a small $99 drone was announced by DJI. The model was called the Tello from a company called Ryze Robotics, a new startup we had not heard of before. Like many before it the Tello promised a number of intelligent features at a very low price point, small toy drones don’t usually get a lot of attention but this one was different as it has 2 very large names associated with it, DJI and Intel.
So what is Tello ?
At first look its a small $99 FPV camera drone thats designed to be flown indoors or at very low level outdoors, at this price point most would assume its in the “toy’ category however that is really not the case because unlike ones before it its packed with a lot technology and specifically DJI’s intelligent flight control system and Intel Movidius Vision systems.
This is similar to what DJI have on their own larger models and means the Tello is extremely easy and stable to fly because its fitted with a version of DJI’s Vision Positioning System its able to hold its position when flying above a well lit surface and gives GPS Mode like hold performance.
However being a fun flying drone is not Tello’s only purpose, its also an educational tool and Ryze Robotics have opened it up to support programming from Scratch and Drone Blocks, these are simple educational programming platforms that help young people learn coding and programming via number of hardware platforms such as Anki Cozmo, this is a whole new area for young people to explore and it makes the Tello an even more interesting product as a result.
A Closer Look at the Craft
The Tello its self is a hand held size quad, its compact and housed with in plastic body with the main electronics are located in the bottom of the aircraft with the battery sliding into the middle to fill the body,looking underneath you can see the Vision system that consists of a small camera and infrared sensors, these are used to measure distance from the ground as well as hold the crafts position.
Propulsion is handled by four brushed motors with small plastic push on props, these are protected by the included prop guards.
Around the front is the camera with the status led then moving around to the side you have a Micro USB port for charging the battery and on the other side you have the power button.
Tello is Wi-Fi based and Ryze have release apps for both IOS and Android, you simply connected your phone or tablet to the crafts onboard Wi-Fi network and open the Tello App
You control the craft movements via onscreen vurtual stick and the Tello App also give you a whole host of other info such as craft and video settings, Live FPV, battery level and signal information, everything you would expect from a smart modern craft.
3RD Party Remote Controllers & Tello
Tello also supports a number of 3rd Party remote controllers, these are models that link to your phone either via USB or Bluetooth. Currently there are a number of controllers that work on IOS side bit nothing on Android at the time of writing this but soon this will change soon as a new GameSir T1D that has been designed to work with the Tello is due for release, On IOS most MFI ones appear to work but ones known specifically to work are
- Gamevice – GV156 /GV157/GV140
- Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i
- PXN Speedy
- SteelSeries Nimbus
- MOGA Ace Power
Fitted with a 5MP electronically image stabilised camera its able to record live video up to 720P and take still images up to 5MP, the Tello is slightly different to larger craft as there is no SD card onboard or internal storage, all video is a recording of the 720p live feed that is stored on the App, Stills however are full resolution images that are transferred back to the App via Wi-Fi.
Live feed video in good light is sharp and clear but because you are recording the live feed its worth noting that any pixelation or break up from poor signal or flying behind walls for instance is also recorded much like the video cache in DJI Go. Stills are impressively and can easily compare with an similar spec modern smartphone.
Tello also includes a host of smart flight modes such as Circle,Bounce, 360, and Up & Away.
Circle makes Tello do an orbit around a subject, 360 takes a 360 video of the Tello’s surroundings, Bounce is a rather strange but fun mode where the Tello fly’s up and down from 0.5m to 1.5m continually, if you have a cat you may wish to keep them away from this one as it seems to get their interest, finally you have Up and Away, this takes a short selfi video as the Tello back out away from you.
Tello also has a bit of a party piece and this is called Flips, Ryze have pre programmed Tello with the ability to do flips in each direction while keeping stable and close to its original position while in flight with either a simple swipe on screen or button combo on the remote, this feature is limited to when the battery is over 50%.
As mentioned Tello is also highly educational and really opens up a whole new world for children and young adults to learn, using Drone Blocks you can quickly program tell Tello via simple block building programming to take off, move, flip and rotate, you can can tell it to fly forward for a specific distance too and its amazing how accurate it is at actually doing this with no GPS reference. Scratch offers more in-depth programming options via actual coding the SDK and is designed for more advanced users.
The Tello is powered by a proprietary 1S 1.1A battery, this battery slides into the middle of the craft, its charged via the crafts onboard micro USB port, Charge time is around 90 minutes and this gives you around 13 minutes of flight, multiple batteries is a must but as you have to charge them in the craft at the moment this can take some time, and there are plans I believe for an external battery hub in the future too.
Tello is very easy to fly, because of the DJI Flight Control its very similar to flying larger DJI models, the VPS system works extremely well and the craft is the most stable small FPV model i have flow, as long as light level is good it holds position extremely accurately, controls are crips and it does exactly what you expect it to do. There are 2 modes available, Normal and Fast.
In normal the craft is smoother and more docile, in Fast its much sharper on the sticks and reacts to both moment and sipping quicker, it stops and reacts a lit more like a Mavic in Fast mode.
When using with a remote its every easier and your able to blast is around the room fast and faster as your confidence builds, Flips are fun too and you can do these while static or actually moving and it becomes a bit of a game to see where you can get it to do them.
The Tello is very different from what you would expect from a $99 drone, while the price point puts it square into the toy category this is really quite far from being a toy, its build quality is superb, fit, finish and looks make it seem like a higher end product and its features make it unlike anything else. The Tello is no Tiny Whoop and its not designed to be, its not a super fast agile mini FPV racer but its definitely a fun craft to fly with a decent camera. The programming features put this into a new class too and will take this little craft into the classroom as well as other places.
Weight: Approximately 80 g (with propellers and battery)
Propeller: 3 inch
Built-In Functions: Range Finder, Barometer, LED, Vision System, WIFI 802.11n 2.4G, 720P Live View
Port: Micro USB Charging Port
Max Flight Distance: 100m
Max Speed: 8m/s
Max Flight Time: 13min
Detachable Battery: 1.1Ah 1S
Photo: 5MP (2592×1936)
Format: JPG(Photo); MP4(Video)
Here are a couple still shots – video coming soon.