So, you’ve decided to treat your kid (read – yourself) with a cool new toy that flies? A drone came to your mind, but since your child will play with it, it has to be small, easy to control, and not dangerous. Also, since kids quickly outgrow their toys, there’s no sense in spending hundreds of dollars for something that will end up in the attic after a year, right? And, if it could have a camera it would be awesome, wouldn’t it?
Well, one model does have all the mentioned features and more, and it’s actually the highest quality toy-grade drone on the market, with an unbelievably affordable price –The DJI Tello Quadcopter. Or, the official name Ryze Tello, since Ryze manufactures it, but with DJI flight technology and an Intel processor. But, believe us, it has the DJI’s signature quality and reliability regardless of the fact that it hasn’t officially been made by them.
- Perform flying stunts, shoot quick videos with EZ Shots
- Smart Interactive Drone; 720p Videos
- 5MP Photos; Takeoff and Landing from Your Hand
- Intel Processor; Programmable via Scratch SDK
- Free Tello App with User-Friendly UI; Compatible with Bluetooth Controllers
It’s time to see what are all the bells and whistles that have raised such a buzz around this little drone.
Don’t expect a sexy designed hard box with flashing DJI letters all over it because you won’t get it. Instead, what you get is a nicely designed, we can call it, the standard micro drone box with a plastic cover over the drone itself.
Here is what you get in the package:
- 4 pairs of propellers
- 2 pairs of propeller guards
- 1 Battery
And that’s it. No fancy bags, no charger, no additional batteries, and no controller. However, it is advertised as the most affordable advanced microcopter, and considering the advantage over other models in its class, we will not take the lack of fancy additions against the truly remarkable Tello.
Design & Durability
With dimensions of 98 x 92.5 x 41 mm, and with just 80 grams of weight, the Tello kind of feels really small and like it’s going to break easily when you hold it for the first time. Unlike the Spark, who goes over your fingers while holding it on your palm, the Tello is smaller than an average adult palm and likewise comes with a frame that is smaller than on any other DJI drones (and most drones to be honest).
But, when put the size aside, it’s quite obvious that the main design idea comes from the Spark’s frame. However, the designers from DJI went one step further and instead of having that, in general opinion, unnecessary landing gear, they have slightly angled the arms downwards and gave them two pairs of “high heels” under the bottom of the rotors. The final result is a drone that has a durable frame construction and even more suitable design for indoor flight than the Spark.
As for the camera, when you take into consideration the class the Tello is in, it has a leading model. Even though it’s only an 82.6 degree, 5-megapixel camera capable of shooting only in 720p at 30 frames per second, it is light-years ahead of any other camera model that can be found on other microdrones.
Furthermore, this camera comes with EIS ( Electronic Image Stabilization) which fine-tunes blurred frames and improves the footage when the drone is moving. And, the Intel processor with 14 cores makes sure it goes all smoothly.
If you think that these features are not enough, the DJI has an answer for you. They added the EZ shots feature. These are like advanced modes you can find in a Spark or other advanced drone models. However, they are not nearly as precise and good looking as with the Spark or the Mavic Air, but for just around $100, we can’t really complain.
EZ shots include somewhat autonomous modes such as 360, Circle, Up & Away, and Bounce. Also, you have a live feed on your phone all the time, and you can even use VR goggles, for a great FPV flying experience.
One downside we found with this camera setup is that you don’t have an option of recording directly on an SD card placed in the drone, rather all in your phone (recording the live feed) which means you don’t quite get the full quality of the footage that comes directly from the camera. But, it makes instant social media uploading much easier than before.
Battery & Flight Time
For starters, this little drone offers double the flight time the best other microdrones offer. For example, the average flight time in this class is from 5 to 7 minutes (7 minutes if you are really lucky and fly it indoors only). But, with the Tello, with one 3.8V 1100 mAh battery, you can get up to 13 minutes of time in the air. That is close to Sparks airtime, which is really impressive considering that the Spark costs 5 times more.
The Tello doesn’t come with a dedicated RC unit. You can either choose to control it through the app on your smartphone, or you can use Scratch coding to create autonomous flight where the drone follows the commands in the code you uploaded before the flight.
Since coding is not everybody’s cup of tea, with most of the people probably, the option of using a smartphone seems more popular. However, everyone that tried controlling a drone with a phone will agree that it is a bit of a nightmare. It simply cannot replace the precision and response time of the traditional RC remote controller.
But, do not despair because there is also an additional, third option, and it is a Bluetooth controller. Both DJI and Ryze recommend the GameVice controllers, which, still, don’t take over the control of your aircraft through 2.4 GHz waves, but use Bluetooth to send the commands to the app, which then sends it through WiFi to the drone. Of course, this does create a certain amount of lag, but nothing significant for the speeds this drone can achieve.
All in all, the GameVice controller gives you a much better control over your drone and is a must additional purchase if you want to experience the full potential of the Tello.
The Tello’s flight performance is top in its class. But, the main “culprit” for that is the technology that can be found “under the hood”. Thanks to its Intel Movidius Myriad 2 VPU, this little drone also comes with the ability to recognize objects. And, it can also recognize hand gestures, the feature we first saw in the DJI Spark. It uses this technology to recognize the palm of your hand and land on it.
Now, when it comes to flying, we have to say that the Tello is incredibly stable in indoor conditions. It flawlessly holds its position and is really easy to control. This makes it perfect for kids and beginners. Also, the 3 inch long props, mounted directly on the motors make it faster and more responsive than any other drone in its class.
But, taking it outside is a risk because due to its lightweight, it doesn’t handle wind. Even the slightest breeze will easily push it away from you and you will end up loosing or crashing it.
Value For Money & Guarantee
So, for around $100, you are getting a microdrone that is capable of some really cool stuff other drones don’t offer. But, what is the end price with the Tello? For the mentioned price, you just get the drone, props times two, prop guards and a battery.
If you want better control, you have to buy the controller separately. The GameVice controller will set you back some $70, which raises the total cost to around $170. And, If you want the FPV experience, you will have to add some $15 more for a Google Cardboard style goggles, which brings the final price up to around $185.
The only drone from this class and in that same price range is the Parrot Mambo which does come with a controller and FPV goggles but is light years behind the Tello in all aspects.
Let’s see what gives the Tello its advantages over the competition and what are its unique features.
One Touch Take Off and Landing
A feature that is usually seen only in more advanced drones, the one-touch takeoff/landing, is also available with the Tello. It makes taking off and landing so much easier and all you have to do is push one button or tap your screen once and that’s it. It will take off or land from the palm of your hand or from any other surface you put it on.
Throw and Go
This feature is pretty much self-explanatory. When you throw the Tello in the air, it will automatically start the motors and quickly stabilize into a smooth hover. Many other drones in this class are advertised as with this feature, but they don’t turn on the motors automatically. You have to throw them and quickly push the throttle stick up. This might turn into a stable hover once you had enough practice, but in most cases, your drone will punch out and behave erratically. This is not the case with the Tello!
Stunts – 8D Flips
Today’s microdrones all come with the ability to perform auto flips with the push of a button, but what sets the Tello above its competition in this area is the fact that it can do flips in 8 directions. With a swipe of the screen, the Tello will do the front, back, and side flips, but it is also capable of doing diagonal flips, in all directions. No other drone can do this.
This is probably the most important set of features that will seal the deal with most people. The Tello comes with some pretty advanced autonomous filming modes. Of course, it doesn’t have an object tracking system like its high-end DJI relatives and the footage can’t look as smooth as with, for example, the DJI Spark because there’s no gimbal involved. But, can you find another drone with this price tag to do automatic 360 circling around you? Or to keep the camera pointed at you while it takes off and goes backward? No, you can’t!
Vision positioning system
This is yet another feature you will find only in $500 or higher priced drones. No other drone in this class the Vision Positioning System. And, it really helps the Tello keep its hover smooth and precise, assuming there’s no wind included in the equation.
To make this drone even more interesting to kids, the DJI has added the ability to set flight tasks for the Tello through Scratch coding. This MIT-developed coding platform uses a programming language that is quite simplified and meant for kids.
In a nutshell, what this means is that kids (or parents) can assign a series of commands to the Tello, which after the full code upload, will perform on its own. Until you get the hang of it, Scratch coding might seem a bit complicated and there’s no official manual for this process. However, there are a bunch of YouTube tutorials, that make it easy and fun. Here is one we found quite useful:
Let’s have a look at which drone models are the closest competitors to Tello.
The Parrot Mambo FPV is basically the only drone in the class that is close enough to the Tello to represent a competition. This little drone is an excellent starter model and like Tello, it is unbelievably stable for a microdrone and comes with a decent camera.
However, even though it can film in 720p, it doesn’t have a 5 MP camera the Tello offers. Instead, it is pretty limited with a 0.9 MP camera, and the video quality is not as high as with the Tello. It does, however, have a vertical distortion correction, but Tello comes with both vertical and horizontal distortion corrections, and EIS and EZ shot modes, which allow it to take a clear win in the Camera section.
When it comes to flight times, the Mambo can stay in the air for around 7 minutes, which is significantly shorter than Tello’s 13 minutes. Thanks to its big props and a large, high-energy-density battery, Tello takes another win over the Mambo.
In a nutshell, both of these drones are great, but the Tello has more features and is more advanced than the Mambo. Though there is one section in which the Mambo took the win, and that is “What’s in the Box” section. As we explained for Tello, you need to buy additional things to get the full potential like precise control and FPV flights, while with the Mambo, you get it right from the start.
The JJRC’s H62 Mini Drone is another great microdrone class representative. It doesn’t offer the same advanced features as the Tello, but considering the price, it can really come in handy for short family vacation videos and photos.
Obviously, the main selling point for this drone is its foldable design and it really becomes compact and easy to transport when folded. The camera that this drone comes with is decent and it delivers 720p videos with beauty mode, but not as clear as the Tello’s videos. Also, it comes with the ability to automatically create 360 photos, which neither the Tello nor the Mambo is capable of.
Another great feature this drone comes with is the optical flow positioning. This feature makes the drone stable, and it also senses objects beneath so that it can auto adjust the altitude accordingly. Speaking of altitude adjustments, the H62 also has a barometric sensor so that it can also adjust the height based on the atmospheric pressure.
Also, the ability to automatically take off and land is another thing this drone has in common with the Tello. And, the follow me feature works, but don’t expect wonders like with more advanced GPS drones. All in all, it nos as good as the Tello, but when you take its price into consideration if offers quite a nice value.
The Eachine has really made a name for themselves in the last few years. Their budget drones are becoming more and more popular. The Eachine E013 FPV microdrone is one of the most popular FPV flight entry-level micros.
Now, unlike the Tello, this is the same class only built with a different purpose type of drone. It doesn’t have all the fancy features such as auto take off and landing, or the vision position systems, nor can it record HD videos. But, what this little speed demon offers is adrenaline!
For the pretty much same price, you get the drone, a dedicated remote controller, and real FPV goggles that you can use with any other drone that transmits the video signal through 5.8 GHz radio waves. This way, you will be able to experience the true FPV flight rush, while you whoop through the house, under the chairs, from room to room, having a bee’s perspective.
Another great thing about this drone is that it is highly customizable. Meaning, you can upgrade it with stronger brushed motors to give it more punch, and you can also change the main control board and replace it with one that supports Beta flight, so that you can fly in Acro mode and perform the stunts you see pilots do with full-blooded racing drones.
As you can see from our review, the DJI/Ryze Tello is a true leader in the microdrone class. But, like with any other drone model, it has both Pros and Cons. Luckily, Pros highly outweigh the cons. Regardless, let’s take a look at the Tello’s Pros and Cons:
- Smart interactive drone
- 5 MP electronically stabilized camera and 720p videos
- Auto takeoff and landing
- Vision position system
- Intel Processor
- Programmable via Scratch SDK
- User-friendly App
- Compatible with Bluetooth controllers
- Needs additional purchases to get the full potential (Bluetooth controller and VR goggles)
Thanks for reading and make sure to leave a comment in the comments section below if you have already tried the Mavic Air. We would love to hear your thoughts or to answer your questions if you have any. Also, if you found our review interesting to read and informative, feel free to share it on social media so that your friends can also learn a thing or two about the latest aerial photography tool that is really picking up some speed.