DJI Tello Review
DJI and start-up company Ryze Technology have teamed up to bring the Tello Drone to market for less than $100. We take a look at this beautiful piece of flying tech-wizardry and put it through its paces to decide once and for all whether it is worth the investment.
DJI Tello Review
DJI have been dominating the mid-top end drone scene for a while now which is why to some it was a surprise to see them take a step in to the budget drone market. In what could be one of the Chinese super-company’s shrewdest moves, we see DJI partner with fellow Chinese start up company Ryze to bring the $99 Tello drone to market.
DJI will have no doubt been aware at their disparity of price compared to budget drones when it comes to novice or amateur drone pilots finding a quadcopter to ignite their passion for model aviation. Hence the Tello was born and the budget drone market was shaken.
Upon unboxing (or even prior to unboxing thanks to the transparent packaging) the first thing you notice is just how small the Tello is. Place it in the palm of an overgrown middle aged man (pointing fingers of other hand at self) and the weight of this drone makes you question how much technology is crammed under the hood – we were led to believe the answer was quite a lot and we were bursting to get this UAV up in the air.
DJI Tello Technical Specs
The Tello Drone comes packed with 8 propellers, propeller guards, one Tello battery and the propeller removal tool. There is no charger included but it handily uses a Micro USB charging port so you will be able to charge it using your existing micro USB chargers.
The key tech specs for the Tello are as follows:
- Size – 98mm x 92.5mm x 41mm
- Weight – 80g (including battery)
- Battery – 1.1ah/3.8v (lasts up to 13 minutes per charge)
- Range – 100m
- FPV – Yes, streamed to smartphone via WiFi (via 2 antennas)
- Max Speed – 17.8mph (Tello has two speed settings)
- Photograph Quality – 5MP
- Video Quality – 720p HD
- Stabilisation – Electronic and utilises vision positioning system
Tello Test Flight
The number one draw for the Tello is how incredibly easy it is to use. From unboxing to getting up in the air you are talking minutes (with the exception of giving the battery a first full charge which takes around 60-90 minutes) and that included us downloading the Tello app and establishing the WiFi connection between the drone and smartphone (we were using a Samsung Galaxy S9) which is required to control the drone.
The Tello app is well designed and with the exception of some minor lagging at longer distances, the streaming of the video to the smartphone was pretty flawless and in well lit conditions the image quality was found to be excellent.
Often, smartphone only controllers can be difficult to use but the Tello is really responsive to the app and has some great features which we will discuss in more detail later. For those who really don’t want to use the onscreen joysticks to control the drone you can connect a bluetooth controller and even use the phone with a third party VR headset for a true FPV experience.
We found the battery life estimations to be pretty accurate with well over 10 minutes of flight time on each of our flights. The more flips and stunts you perform and the more flying on the faster flight speed setting the more the battery will drain quickly, but even with this sort of usage we were enjoying flight times of around 11-12 minutes. This is where you need to pinch yourself for a reality check as most lower priced drones that the Tello is competing with have flight times of around 5 minutes. Indeed, you only need to look at the battery to know that this is different (in a very good way) to many of the cheaper budget drones on the market today.
With collision avoidance hardware, auto take-off and landing and a failsafe landing system should you lose range, the Tello really is flyable by anyone.
The Tello Camera
Similar to the DJI Spark, the Tello is very much pitched at casual and (dare we say it) younger drone users with the camera providing opportunities for the ultimate selfies. That being said, the Tello is a little more limited than the Spark with its lack of GPS but it also has some pretty nifty features of its own – and of course retails at around a quarter of the price.
The 5MP camera again sets the Tello apart from the cheaper competition and the image quality is pretty impressive. The camera has a 82.6 degree field of view and although it does not move it is pretty easy to navigate to a position for the perfect shot so long as you don’t need too much distance between you and your subject. Our photographs were bright and vivid when taken in sunlit outside conditions and were surprisingly crisp.
Although the Tello only features electronic stabilization, its video is very steady so long as wind conditions are minimal. No less than 14 Intel core processors do much of the grunt work and coupled with the vision positioning system (using downward facing sensors) it makes for one of the steadiest non-mechanical image/video stabilization experiences we have seen – especially at this price point.
Tello EZ Shots provide you with a set of pre-programmed shot types that can be used to capture some great videos. 360, Circle and Up and Away are three shots that provide you with something a little different. 360 sees the drone hover in place whilst taking a panoramic 360 video as it rotates fully 360 degrees. Circle has the drone circle around a central point (there is no GPS or subject recognition here though) and up and away makes the drone continue to film in the direction it is facing whilst flying slowly up and away – pretty self explanatory really.
What’s great about the Tello camera is that it gives a really solid FPV experience. As soon as you switch the drone on and connect it to the Tello app your controller has the video showing full screen – so you always feel in control. The photographs and videos that you take are stored directly on to your phone so there is no need for a micro-SD card and you can be sharing your pics and vids all over social media in seconds. No cables or uploading required here – it really is idiot proof!
Tello – The Cool Stuff
The DJI Tello is one of the funnest budget drones we have used – especially for video and photos – but there is more to the Tello than just selfies. One aspect of the Tello we have touched on is the tricks and stunts that it can perform and these are actually pretty darn cool. It is as simple as swiping on the screen (once you have selected flips mode) to perform a range of 8D flips and aerial stunts – and the Tello performs these with consumate ease and almost has a swagger whilst doing so. There is also a bounce mode which makes the drone bounce on the spot – to be honest this only kept us amused for around 3 seconds and was pretty pointless – the kids liked it though.
One other pretty nifty add on to mention is the option of Scratch coding. Using this basic visual coding system and the Tello SDK you can actually program the Tello yourself – something that educational institutions have already looked to take advantage of and something that you can do at home with the kids yourself if you so wish.
Who Should Buy A Tello?
The Tello is perfect for someone who is new to drones as it is so easy to use. However, thanks to its portability and decent battery life it may also be a great add on for someone who has a mid-top end drone to supplement your arsenal. There is nothing worse than not having your drone with you when you want it and this can just be packed in your bag and ready to come out at a moments notice.
If you can use a smartphone then you can use a Tello drone – it really is that simple and we simply love it.
DJI Tello $99
The DJI/Ryze partnership seems to have hit on the perfect entry level drone for newcomers to this ever-growing hobby. The Tello drone may not be the cheapest in its class but it packs plenty of punches and is hard to ignore if you have a budget of around $100 to spend.
The camera offers 5MP of awesomeness in well lit environments and has a range of easy to use features to capture some interesting video shots, whilst the ability for Scratch programming means that the educationalists will also be happy.
Whether you are looking for an easy to use and super portable drone as a standalone purchase or you want something to add to your collection – the Tello is highly unlikely to disappoint.
Fantastic battery life
Easy to control
Decent photographs with 5MP quality
Very safe to use
Doesn’t fare particularly well in moderate wind conditions