The first thing you notice when you pick up Tello is how light it is, it only weighs 80 grams (under the drone registration weight). Its such a simple design, one button on the side to switch it on an off and a micro usb on the other side to charge it. The battery is removable and simply slides in and out of the body, this allows you to replace the battery for additional flight time.
The Tello drone is very robust for its price tag, it has a good sturdy solid frame. An added bonus is that it comes with the removable prop guards. Propellers are also easily replaceable if they damaged. Our Tello drone has taken a couple of crashes and is still in one piece. We can reassure you they all happened in manual flight mode and were due to our inability to see obstacles.
Battery Life and Flight Time
With a full battery DJI and RyzeTech claim that you can get 13 minutes flight times out of theTello. The majority of flights I have had came in at around 10 minutes, just short of that figure. The battery life is short but replacement batteries can be bought and the drone has a micro usb port which is great for changing it on the go. It takes just over an hour to charge the battery.
In terms of price its kind of a unique package, nothing out there really offers the same camera specs bundled with the kind of flight features that the Tello can offer. It sits somewhere between the FPV version of the Parrot Mambo and the ZeroTech Dobby. For the price Tello packs in some fantastic onboard tech and flight features and is really a breed of its own.
The Tello has some nice built in flight modes, you will need to already be up in the air to use most of them. First off you can use throw and go and it will spin up the props and let you throw it to start flying. From there you have fun options like bounce mode and flips, as well as shooting options like circle, up & out and 360. For landings it doesn’t have GPS so no ‘return to home’ but you can either bring it back manually and catch it or go for a palm landing. The landing features are so good it hasn’t touched the ground once to land.
On top of the automated flight features it has a traditional virtual control pad available through the Tello app that will give you all the manual flight controls you need.
Tello lacks GPS so that does hinder its stability in challenging weather conditions. But the Tello is super light so you wouldn’t expect it to keep stable in strong winds. In the tests we did it held strong in breeze and was very responsive to the controls in all flights we did.
The automated flight features like circle, throw and go and the flips really show you how quickly it can correct itself in the air. The downward vision sensors do a great job keeping it level.
There is an option to switch Tello up in to ‘Fast’ mode which allows it to go its full speed which is around 17mph (27 kph). Its a surprisingly nippy little drone and a great little starter drone if you are thinking of getting in to something like drone racing. To get the most out of Tello’s speed you will need to remove the prop guards to keep the weight right down.
The Tello has a max flight distance of 100 metres with a restricted flight height of 10 metres. This may sound restrictive but its actually quite generous given how small and light the drone is. Once you go beyond that distance you may start to lose sight or control of the Tello so its not something we really saw as a negative. Using the ‘up and away’ feature makes it feel like it is flying quite far out from you and its enough to get a really nice wide shot.
The Tello camera has an 82.6″ field of view and works using EIS (electronic image stabilisation) rather than a gimbal to stabilise its shots. Tello shoots 5 megapixel photos, thats 2592 × 1936 in size. Images are saved in JPG format and saved to the Tello app. In terms of video if offers 720p at 30 frames per second, so thats 1280 × 720 pixels in the MP4 video format. We have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of this and for sharing through social channels the quality is actually quite respectable.
Photo and video is stored directly to your phone so you will need free space on there to be able to use the feature. The camera can suffer from some freezing and artefacts in the image. But you have to remember that the images and video are being transferred straight to the device over wifi. We used Google Cloud to backup the content and then just delete it from the phone to keep space freed up.
Tello Drone Test Shots
More test shots will be coming soon.
Tello drone controller support
The addition of Bluetooth controller support is great because it means you can get tactile control when flying manually. It also means you can free up your phone to act as a screen for a VR headset. The range of compatible Bluetooth controllers is currently quite thin on the ground.
Sadly there seems to be no way to connect to the Tello using an Android Bluetooth controller. I was told by a DJI representative that the compatible devices were only iOS devices. So realistically you can only use MFI controllers and Apple smart devices at the minute.
Its no big deal not being able to use a Bluetooth controller as the app is excellent but it does take away the ability to be able to use a VR headset. I feel like DJI and Ryze have done a poor job of communicating this. If you state a controller or VR features work with the product then it should work for both iOS and Android.
Its still very early days for the Tello and it already has people building apps for it, so it will likely have additional controller support in the near future.
Tello has additional functionality where you can actually create Scratch applications that will interact with it. This is a really nice feature that allows you not only learn some programming but create some fun scripts to run on your drone.
Tello drone review wrap up
Tello is a lightweight but strong drone with some fantastic flight features. If this is what can be achieved for just £99 ($99) then the future of drones is very bright. If they can squeeze in a HD camera, bigger battery and some nice new flight features in to the next iteration then its going to be a winner!
– Sturdy construction
– Simple take off and landing mode
– Easy to use flight modes
– Battery life hinders flight times
– Lack of Bluetooth support for Android controllers (at time of launch)
– Occasional photo and video issues
– No GPS for additional stability and return to home