Following on from my post about drone regulations in Ireland a few people have been in touch to ask me for my opinion on the best drone to start out with. The answer to this question depends on one's intended use case. The biggest trade off comes between portability and range of features / image quality. My immediate response was to suggest holding off until CES and I'm sure glad that this was my suggestion.
Today, at CES, DJI (the world's largest producer of hobby and professional drones) announced that they've teamed up with startup Ryze Robotics to offer a sub $100 (well $99 to be precise) starter drone called Tello. Controlled by your smartphone, or by a bluetooth games controller, this device is designed to be launched and landed by hand.
Shipping with just a 720p video camera (5MP stills) it may not be the most exciting camera device for pros. Weighing in at only 80g and limited to 13 minutes of flight time, the Tello has clearly been designed to be more of fun, easy to use device rather than as a creative's workhorse. However, for the beginner, this could be just the device to get one started. Designed to perform tricks, it can even be flown indoors and has also been designed for use with VR goggles.
I've no idea how the flying performance will stack up against an average FPV Racing drone but at €99 it could certainly make for a cost effective entry into the world of First Person View racing. Tello is also being marketed as something that can help kids to learn how to code as it will be possible to programme it using Scratch (an easy to use programming language developed at MIT to teach children how to code).
An SDK will also be available to help more advanced users to develop their own unique applications for the device. It seems that Tello are also keen to encourage people to design their own hardware to use with the device - a 1080 camera immediately springs to mind!
Especially worth mentioning that the device is powered by an intel processor that contains the Movidius Myriad 2 visioning positioning system that was originally designed by Irish Startup Movidius before they sold their technology to Intel (Autumn 2016) for €300m.
Personally I'm very excited about this product as it comes out at an affordable enough price for most and sounds like it will be an ideal tool to learn the basics of flying a drone (for all pilots of all ages) before committing to a much more expensive longer term device. It's also great to see this device being marketed as a tool to help people lean how to code.
I’d hope that this could also enthuse children about science and engineering and will be excited to see what apps and hardware that will be built as a result. Who knows, maybe one day in the future we’ll even see another Movidius type success story inspired by some kids’ early use of a Tello. Can’t wait to get my hands on one — full review and feedback to follow when I do so do stay tuned!