When DJI announced the Spark back in May last year, we thought the move cemented the Chinese manufacturer as the leader in every price bracket. But we were probably too hasty with that assumption. There are countless drones and manufacturers which come into the ‘toy’ category and cost much less than the $500 Spark. Bad news for them today though, as DJI has just launched its very own budget drone: The $99 Tello.
DJI’s $99 obstacle avoiding drone
At least that’s the headline. In fact, the drone has been developed and manufactured by Shenzhen startup Ryze Tech. It will be sold on the DJI website and looks uncannily like a smaller brother of the Spark. The Tello has also been created with the help of DJI and another industry giant, Intel, using technology from both to make this a budget drone capable of much more than its low-budget competitors.
Introducing the DJI Tello
We’re usually very wary of drones that cost under $100. You tend to get what you pay for in this industry, after all. But DJI and Intel don’t get involved with products unless they know it will make an impact, so it’s worth taking a closer look at Tello.
What you get for $99…
A tiny, smaller-than palm-sized drone that offers plenty. Here are the specs:
- Weight: Approximately 80 g (with propellers and battery)
- Dimensions: 98mm*92.5mm*41mm
- Propeller: 3 inch
- Built-In Functions: Range Finder, Barometer, LED, Vision System, WIFI 802.11n 2.4G, 720P Live View
- Port: Micro USB Charging Port
- Max Flight Distance: 100m
- Max Speed: 8m/s
- Max Flight Time: 13min
- Detachable Battery: 1.1Ah/3.8V
- Photo: 5MP (2592×1936)
- FOV: 82.6°
- Video: HD720P30
- Format: JPG(Photo); MP4(Video)
- Electronic Image Stabilization: Yes
So, to summarize, the Tello has collision detection system. It also hovers in place when your hands leave the controls. It also comes with Auto Takeoff, Auto Landing, and Low Battery protection features. This is made possible with a combination of Intel’s Movidius vision processing unit (VPU) and DJI’s flight stabilization technology.
It has real-time HD video transmission to your smartphone or tablet. You can throw it to take off, it has a bunch of autonomous ‘EZ’ flight modes and it has flips pre-programmed.
So yes. For $99, this is a drone that can effectively “see” the world around it. This is a big step.
What do DJI and Intel have to say?
This is what the folks and DJI and Intel have to say about Ryze Tech’s Tello drone:
“The Tello is an impressive drone with so much intelligence packed inside such a small package,” said Remi-El-Ouazzane, VP and Movidius General Manager, New Technologies Group, Intel.
“The incredible vision processing capabilities of the Intel Movidius Myriad 2 enable Ryze to miniaturize the drone and eliminate the need for multiple processors dedicated to each flying function. This is just the beginning of a promising toy market featuring robotics, AI and computer vision technologies.”
“The idea of making play an essential part of learning and putting this concept into a drone makes the Tello more than just a toy. It’s an opportunity for kids and young engineers to discover the ingenuity and science behind aerial technology. Once they learn how it works, they will be able to do great things with it. We’re excited to see the Tello come to life and congratulate Ryze for their accomplishment,” said Paul Xu, DJI’s Vice President.
A few more things
The Tello will be compatible with select third party VR headsets. We’re guessing DJI Goggles will be at the front of this queue.
The Tello has also been designed for educational purposes. It can be programmed with Scratch, an MIT Media Labs coding system that teaches kids and teens the basics of programming. More advanced users can also develop software applications for Tello using the Tello SDK.
Where and When Can You Buy Tello?
The Tello drone will be available for sale for $99 on the DJI website and at DJI Flagship Stores. Tello will be available in the United States and other markets after March 2018.