John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Ryze DJI Tello drone review

DO NOT BUY THIS DRONE without reading this review, and DO NOT BUY A DRONE FROM HENRY’S. Ok now we have that out of the way we can get on with the review, assuming your bothering to continue reading 🙂 It absolutely shocks me how bad this drone is. I watched and read a lot of reviews before bellying up with the cash, and not one of them pointed out some of the significant and obvious issues/limitations/design flaws with this drone. I have to wonder if these other reviewers are on the take … Of course the only person upset about corruption is the one that got left out 🙂

Oh and while we are at it, I bought it from Henry’s fully aware that they have NO RETURNs. I thought, it’s a DJI, how bad could it be? Man was I wrong …

So to level set, the drones I have played with to date are Syma X5WSW, a Syma X5HW, a Syma X8, and a Cellstar CX10D nano drone. All of these are at best toys, so my expectations you would think are not set all that high … In the box there’s the copter, one spare set of props, a tool to remove the props, a teenie tiny print manual in the oddest size ever (fortunately you can download the manual and read it on a reasonable screen) and that’s it. The copter charges the battery by a micro USB cable, but does not include one. The battery can only be charged in the copter. Now if your an iPhone person and don’t have any micro USB cables … Oddly the first one I tried a little pig tail I used wouldn’t charge it, and the unit kept turning on. After a couple hours I figured nothing was happening so I changed to a different cable/charger, and low and behold it got started charging. There is no way to tell how charged the battery is in progress other than, unplug it, turn it on, connect to it, start the ap and seeing the teenie tiny battery icon inside the app … The drone takes just shy of 1A so be sure and use a charger that can deliver enough current to charge it

Speaking of connecting, I got a little ahead of myself, you download an app called tello from the Apple or Android store, you can not operate this copter without an Android or iOS phone/tablet. This should be obvious but it’s worth stating … The copter once turned on sets up a WIFI hotspot which you connect to. Then start the app. If you leave it on default there’s no password for the WIFI and iOS will not automatically connect to it. Fortunately you can add a password and make connecting to the Tello a little easier. If you don’t connect after a couple minutes and start flying, the drone powers off and your starting the process again. A nice, and not nice feature. I tried both the iOS and Android versions of the app and didn’t notice any differences, good or bad.

Once installed, connected, and charged your ready to go. And I then bumped into the first major limitation. It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to fly this at night. They stupidly did not include any lights on the copter. WTF? Are you for real? They warn you in the ap when the lighting is low, so I guess there is that.

Without lights, or even a piece of colored tape (which will be something I add) it is super hard to identify your orientation with the copter, whether in light or dark lighting. And without orientation flying this thing is REALLY challenging. Of all the flaws with this copter this is by far the biggest omission.

And now comes my next big gripe … the people working at Ryze must have the best optical coverage on the planet because absolutely everything from the would be useful telemetry data (speed/height), to the battery charge level, to the messages, to the super small print in the manual are all so damn small as to be difficult to see/read even with my glasses.

Now inside the app you can change all kinds of settings, like turning on VR support for using with google (a nice add but with the lag over WIFI completely impractical), to changing settings for the quality level of the photos etc. And every single one of them change back to defaults the next time your in the app. Your kidding me? I had read this in one of the reviews, but just assumed they would have got around to fixing this glaring error … NOPE. Sigh … Not that this is a big deal, but there is no app for the Apple watch for the Tello.

The video is sent back to the phone rather than being recorded on the drone. There is no micro SD card slot. This results in choppy video and is laggy when your trying to fly the drone by watching the screen. In fact, fly the drone by watching the screen and your likely to end up crashing the drone even more frequently. The video on this is so bad, for me, it’s useless. Now admittedly, I knew this. Here’s a sample video to show you just how bad it is. Look at the jumpyness even given this super low motion gentle video.

The lens is not movable, not from the drone, not from the app, Nada, totally fixed. So getting your picture or video properly framed is challenging. Why they didn’t allow you to at least manually move it is beyond me.

Pictures and videos are stored in the Tello app. From the app you can then save them to the normal iPhones photos/videos. From there you can finally now share them, email them etc. It’s clumsy to say the least. Why they didn’t add a share from the tello app like everyone else is beyond me. And once you’ve got them over with you default photos/videos, you now have to delete them in two places when your done. And Android was the same by the way …

This drone is by default controlled by onscreen joy sticks. These are not the easiest to use without looking at them. In fact I would go so far as to say clumsy. You can buy an optional bluetooth controller and that may help. With this the controller talks to the Tello ap which in turn relays the commands to the drone. This may help some in flying the drone, but you are out another $40. Sheesh. The one everyone seems to recommend, even Ryze is the Gamesir T1D. They have not added gyro like controls that would allow you to tilt the phone to control the drone. And they have not added any kind of vibrate to tell you when your fingers have drifted off the controls. So in the end I gave in and bought the controller. In for a penny … So the controller actually works quite well, and is solidly built. It has a rechargeable battery. Technically the GameSir is NOT iOS certified but the Tello ap sees the remote and you can enable within the settings. Once enabled the onscreen joysticks disappear but the menus for doing tricks setting up stuff and the like all stay, which is perfect. Once the remote is working the lag between the phone and the Tello is noticeable and you need to take it into account when trying to maneuver. Indoors I noticed the granularity on the remote to be too coarse and hard to control. I also noticed from time to time the drone would simply stop responding to the remote. And it would also stick in slow rather than fast mode which in windy conditions became problematic. If your getting the sense the bluetooth remote is less than a perfect implementation … then my work here is done 🙂 Here is a printable map of what the buttons on the remote do:

Don’t bother trying to pair the remote, an iPhone will ignore it. In Android however the Gamesir is paired/connected normally. Having to buy the Gamesir is at best a bandaid on a problem, problem being Ryze should have included a remote, even if it was a super cheap on like the one with the nano drone I mentioned above.

Flight time is rated at 13 mins (which is about what I get), and it took 1.5 hrs to recharge it from dead. It drew a steady just under 1A for the whole time. You can buy spare batteries relatively inexpensively, but if you do, be sure and buy an external charger for them, because otherwise they can ONLY be charged in the drone. You can not turn the drone on while it’s plugged in.

Ok so I have been pointing out some of the bad things about the drone. Now let’s talk about some of the good. This is by far one of the best hovering drones out there. It’s optical sensors on the bottom really do an incredible job of hover in place. Because of this, it’s one of the best indoor drones I’ve flown so far (minus the usability of the onscreen controls). And the camera, is actually quite good and turns out some reasonable pictures, if you can manage to frame want you want as I mentioned above. The pictures are 2592×1936 and were about 1.2M in high quality and about 661K in low, or about half. Sadly the default pic is low quality (and the app ALWAYS defaults back to low each and every time).

This drone does auto take off, toss to launch, palm land and auto land, all of which work VERY well.

In it’s bag of tricks the drone can do a 360 circle about itself, as well as a circle 7 ft in front of it (not configurable), and an up and away all the while automatically starting a video while doing the maneuver (assuming you can live with the jerkyness), as well a silly bounce mode. All of these modes can ONLY be done in low wind or it just quits. The circle seemed to have issues maintaining height. Up an away only goes on direction, and then holds. You can not adjust anything (height rotation nada) once the maneuver is in progress so it takes a few tries to get it right. The parameters of these are not at all configurable (how high it goes in up and away, radius of the circle etc).

The drone can do flips in 8 directions, but cuts this feature off as soon as the battery is below 50%, so if you wanna do flips, do them early or be disappointed. None of the other drones I have played with had this level of restriction.

Once the battery hits a critical low level the drone does an auto land. It will also do an auto land should WIFI get out of range.

It’s worth mentioning you do get warned as WIFI signal strength is getting low (ie the drone is too far from you or there are strong WIFI signals near). In fact I actually had this happen when the drone was not all that far from me, like across the street. I guess just too many WIFI signals near my home. I’ve noticed a lot of people on vblogs discussing using a WIFI range extender like the Anbee Tellow WIFI extender to get better coverage. In all honesty, given how difficult it is to fly this when you can’t see it, I’m not sure how useful this is. And reports seem to say it still does nothing to improve the jerky video, but admittedly I have not done it.

The drone has two speeds of control the default is slow, which is useful indoors and in low wind, and fast (which is changed in the settings screen) which would be better outdoors or in the wind.

Speaking of wind I had it out in conditions no previous drone could have flown in, and in spite of complaining it handled exceptionally well and even still held it’s position exceptionally well. By the way, looks like height is capped at 10M.

There is an API that allows controlling the tello from a third party app. This results in a super neat programming tool you can use to create a program for the Tello to follow. For example Droneblocks on iOS.

By the way, one of the reasons I bought this small drone instead of say the DJI Spark is the current laws regarding drones. At time of writing anything above 250g (and don’t be surprised if that changes) has restrictions on when, and where they can be legally flown. At 80g this drone is exempt. Before buying any drone I highly recommend you read this article and aquatint yourself on the state of laws in Canada.

This drone all in all is a dichotomy … in some ways it’s the best drone I’ve touched to date, and in others it’s the worst.

July 20, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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