Tello Review after 2 Months!

Today’s flight location: Fleet.Sushi.Calls

These past few weeks it’s been challenging to go flying due to various other appointments and the fact that most Saturdays are currently blocked for the preparation of the August 9 Singapore National Day celebrations. Obviously, it’s not like I’m participating in the parade, but due to the fact that there’s always an air show on display featuring low-flying military planes & helicopters, the government has enacted temporary no-fly zones around most of southern Singapore and as such, flights are almost impossible on Saturdays.

But luckily, today is Sunday!

Marina Bay Sands, Art Science Museum & Singapore Flyer

Against the backdrop of the Marina Bay Area, I decided to post a second review (this is the first one) of the DJI Ryze Tello, about 2 months after I bought it.

Since my previous fly-away with the Tello, I’m trying to be more diligent about flying in places where the Tello can’t get lost, or if it does, at least that I can run after it without getting my shoes/pants all wet.

Basically, my feelings about the Tello haven’t changed much from my previous blog. It’s a great little drone, it does have its shortcomings, especially in camera quality and stabilisation, but photo quality is great, there is no worry about missing GPS signal (without which I would never fly the Spark as it behaves erratically in Atti mode). I’ve found that due to its small size and low noise, it’s really versatile, and I’ve never encountered anyone who was angry about me flying it… most people are just plain curious and ask what kind of drone it is.

Better not fly over water – the reflective/non-contrast surface will take your Tello off course!

Obviously, in countries other than Singapore, the fact that it’s just 80g also helps as e.g. there’s no registration necessary in Canada, there’s no need for a licence plate in Germany and in the US you can fly it in National Parks.

Now, in order to enjoy the Tello more, what I would recommend (as shown in the video) are these 4 accessories (and maybe a fifth that I didn’t mention).

No. 1 – Batteries

This is the biggy! Get enough batteries to last through your sessions. If you use the Tello as a simple Selfie drone (which it is probably designed for), you may get 11 or so minutes of flight time out of the one battery, but the skipping video (even with Wifi extender), may mean that you should take each shot multiple times. I’ve got 5 batteries for about 1 hour of flight, but I suggest getting a minimum of 2 extra batteries (for a total of 3). Also, pls. consider buying an extra charger (there’s first-party DJI ones and third-party ones), because if you’re going to be using the aircraft to charge the battery, it’ll take you around 45 minutes per battery and that can get really boring if you’ve got 3 (or more).

No. 2 – WiFi Repeater

I’ve written about this in my previous blog, and suggest you get a similar one, or the exact same one. I’m happy with the Xiaomi Wifi Extender, it does a decent job and extends the range quite a bit (I would say 3-4 times of that without it). However, pls. note that the setup is not super easy and the App’s name is only in Chinese…

No. 3 – Controller

I’ve watched the discussion on Reddit for some time, and it appears there’s cheap Bluetooth gaming remotes that appear to have a name similar to the one that supports the DJI Ryze Tello, but it doesn’t work. Apparently if you’re going to buy a controller, the best option is to buy it from the DJI store, but even there, it’s sold out at the moment.

The reason why I wouldn’t recommend getting a bluetooth controller though, is that bluetooth works on the same 2.4 Ghz frequency as the Tello’s main WiFi connection and as such, even with the above mentioned repeater, you’ll get worse signal and worse range again. Obviously, the tactile feel will be better with physical buttons, but it doesn’t help if you’re range is severely shortened. For this reason, I’ve gone with the Gamevice controller (I’ve bought it from the Apple store, but DJI also stocks it). The reason this one is better is, that it connects to your iPhone by lightning port and thus doesn’t use Bluetooth at all. You can switch the phone to airplane mode and enjoy the best possible range!

No. 4 – Custom modded case

My custom modded DJI Tello Case

For my custom case, I used a Pelican 1040 micro case as the basis and made some changes to it. It comes with a rubberised inlay that was a bit too thick and thus the Tello doesn’t fit. I cut it out in a way that the water resistant layer around the inner edge remains, and to add some cushioning, instead I put soft fabric stickers on the top of the case where the propellers would meet the plastic. Additionally, I’ve glued in the cap of the Wifi repeater to hold in place while in transport. The Tello is quite tough, but I don’t want to take a chance by having it pump repeatedly into the repeater (and I wouldn’t like the clickity-clackety sound of it either). I haven’t had to replace the propellers once, but just in case, I’ve also added in the spare propellers that came with the Tello in their original packaging alongside the tool needed to replace them. If you like, let me know if you need any further info on how I modded this case.

No. 5 – (optional) App for increasing maximum Altitude

I find that the Tello works best at altitudes up to 10 meters, but sometimes it can be good to go above that to get the best video/photo. The way that the Tello’s camera is positioned means that you need to be quite a bit higher than your subject as it doesn’t film straight ahead, but slightly down.

The Tello keeps its position by way of the altitude sensors & optical positioning sensor on the bottom of the aircraft and these begin to fail around 10m onwards. In today’s video my maximum flight height was around 20 meters at which point the wind made it too dangerous to continue going up (and Wifi/bluetooth all around meant a bad connection in the middle of the city).

If you’d like to try, I can recommend getting this app. Setup is really easy, connect your Tello as you normally would, then open the app and change the altitude limit. The app’s maximum is 100m, but I’m certain it wouldn’t be a good idea to fly that high with this little drone. For that purpose, better stick to the Spark!

OK, that’s it for today, if you like, there’s also the VLog of above mentioned points and I hope you enjoy my flight around Marina Bay.

Thanks a lot for watching/reading & subscribing.

See you next time!


Slightly edited picture taken with my Tello during today’s flight