Mini Quadcopter UAV for Kids-Beginners, 5MP Camera, HD720 Video, 13min Flight Time, Education/Scratch Programming, Selfies, powered by DJI.
The Ryze DJI Tello is a great little entry-level drone (toy quadcopter) with an impressive set of features. Like all things small and miniaturized, the Tellos are not without their own set of unique quirks and issues.
In no particular order, below find a list of some of the more notable ones, none of which should keep the new drone enthusiast from owning a Tello.
It remains a fantastic introduction for kids or adults to learn the art and science of flying unmanned aerial vehicles and aerial camera platforms (UAVs or drones).
1. Just how do you turn this thing off?
You’d be hard-pressed to find another quadcopter at this price point to come with so many features and functions. That’s why as an entry-level quadcopter, it can be a bit peculiar to learn that there is no way to turn the drone’s engines off other than to land it!!!!
As a new pilot of probably your first drone, should it end up stuck in a tree or upside down on a roof or in the neighbor’s yard still running but not flying, it will whine away until the battery dies or a neighbor dog decides to sample the Ryze flavor of plastic.
It’s never a good idea to pick up a quad with its props still spinning of course. Should you find yourself in a situation where it needs to “be off”, try gently placing a towel or some other light fabric over the spinning props.
This will generate an error on your screen, but shouldn’t really damage the drone and you should be able to reboot and restart the Tello with a fresh battery.
Be careful to inspect the drone and especially the props for damage if you have to resort to this. Warped, bent or chipped prop blades will definitely affect the flight quality of your drone, Tello included.
When I first flew my Tello a few years ago, I found my upside-down whizzing white Tello and wondered, “wait….what? Now what? No, really? How do I shut this thing off!”
2. The props are spinning but she won’t take off
Most quadcopters have two different sets (pairs) of propellers and are installed diagonally opposed to each other. It’s easy to mismatch a prop and install the wrong one on the wrong engine. Doing so will keep the drone from taking flight or in some cases may even cause it to flip over on its back.
The Tello props are marked just for this purpose so, make sure you’ve got the positions for the correct props on the right motors. Many drones emboss or print “A” or “B” on their props. The Tello uses a simple plastic line embedded in two of the four props.
The props should be matched in an “X” configuration – that is for example – an “A” in the upper left and lower right, etc. As long as the props are diagonally opposed, the drone should fly nicely.
3. Not meant to fly outdoors
A Tello with the battery, props and prop guards weighs in at just under 8 oz. Flying this small quadcopter outdoors might work out OK, as long as there is absolutely zero wind conditions. Clearly, this machine was made to perform indoors.
It has an altitude limitation of 10 meters whether indoors or out. Windy conditions will likely drain the battery rapidly, and depending on just how much wind she’s confronted with, could send her zipping off in unintended directions, altitudes and speeds.
The Tello also will not take kindly to cold temperatures (sub-freezing) and wet conditions as there is little protection to the interior circuitry.
4. Not easily repairable
In their simplest forms, drones are flying computers with cameras. They depend mostly on the software they carry on board and don’t have a lot of moving parts. For a Tello, this can make them poor candidates for repairs unless one is only replacing the few replaceable parts that can be had.
Through normal, safe usage, the only real wear and tear will be seen in the brushed motors. Small, cheap, and easy to find, these replacement motors are nonetheless not all that easy to replace. There are two different motors needed (they are like left and right sides) so it’s necessary to identify exactly which motor you need to replace.
Next, they are small with very small wires that need both de-soldering and re-soldering to very small solder points. Prior to soldering, replacing the motors involves threading a pair of these extremely thin wires through some very small holes.
5. Mediocre camera image quality
High Definition (HD) cameras have come a long way in a short time. The Tello sports an HD720 megapixel camera using software (instead of hardware) for image stabilization. In simple terms, the camera’s position is fixed to the body of the drone, and any vibration, shuddering or image blur, or disfiguration is designed to be handled by software instructions embedded in the onboard micro-chips.
HD and UHD imagery is so commonplace these days (smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, and other computer monitors) that HD720 no longer seems to satisfy our desire for eye candy that we experience on the devices mentioned above most of the time.
The Tello’s still images are, in my opinion, sketchy, unsharp, and flatly colored. The video output is saddled with basically the same complaints but adds jerky, frame skipping uninteresting rendering from the moving images it captures.
For under $100, in reality, it would be unfair to expect much more from this flying toy imaging capability.
6. Limited flight range (and no GPS)
The Tello connects to a controller device (smartphone, tablet, or game controller) via a regular wi-fi connection. While this greatly simplifies connectivity issues, it also imposes a fairly limited range between the controller and the drone during flight.
The manufacturer advertised distance of 100 meters is occasionally obtainable but a more real-world result is more in the 50-meter ballpark.
To improve range limitations, a number of tech firms offer a wi-fi range extender that can be used to improve the Tello’s flight distances. These devices vary in price quite a bit. The extender plugs into your device, your device connects via extended wi-fi to your Tello, and off you go flying.
With the Tello being as small as it is, it can be fairly easy to fly it just far enough away to lose line of sight with it, a situation best avoided for obvious reasons. Some amount of care should be taken to avoid a dreaded “fly-away” when flying with one of the better range extenders.
As well behaved and flight stable as the Tello is, it’s easy to forget that it does not have any GPS technology – only an onboard barometer that it uses for holding altitudes.