Drone Unboxing

On Tuesday, February 12, Asya excitedly escorted me, Sabina, and Ino into Project Room C. Inside, we found a few new additions to the lab; a DJI Mavik 2 Pro, a Tello EDU mini-drone, and accessory/starter kits for both. 

The Mavik 2 Pro box included the drone itself,  extra propellers, one battery pack/charger, a controller, and the gimbal-mounted Hasselblad L1D-20c camera. The drone is easily manageable in a single hand and weighs 2 pounds with the battery and propellers installed; a testament to DJI’s engineering. The controller is fully folded and flat at the time of unboxing, but when unfolded, two antennas, a phone-holding mechanism, and cleverly removable joysticks adorn the unit (it should be noted that only Micro-USB or Lightning enable phones are supported out of the box, a USB-C adapter is available for $10 from DJI). When connected, a phone will display a live feed straight from the Mavik’s mounted camera to assist in flying at extended range.  

As for Mavik accessories, we received the DJI Fly More kit with extra components and FPV goggles directly from DJI. The kit included 4 extra propellers, 2 extra batteries, a charging extension capable of docking four batteries, a car-charger cable, and a battery to USB x2 adapter for charging the controller or any USB accessory with the battery packs, and a backpack designed to carry all the items. Importantly, the charging hub can only charge one battery at a time rather than all four simultaneously. There are multiple ways to pack the backpack efficiently with equally many guides available through YouTube or blog posts (like this one). 

The Tello EDU box contained the drone itself, 4 removable propellers, 4 removable prop guards, a prop removal tool, a battery/charging cable, and 4 double-sided “mission pads” that a user can train to utilize in different ways. The drone looks like a smaller, cuter cousin of the Mavik 2 Pro by weighing in at less than three ounces and 4 inches across. Oddly, the box did not include a method for charging the drone besides placing the battery in the Tello and charging through the drone’s side-mounted Micro-USB port. The box did not include a controller since an Android or iOS device can connect to and pilot the drone over WiFi using the Tello or Tello EDU app. Alternatively, the drone can receive commands from desktop Chrome devices using the Droneblocks Chrome Web App.  

In addition to the components included in Tello’s box, HPC received 4 extra prop guards, 4 extra propellers, 2 extra batteries, and a battery charging hub that can house 3 individual batteries. Similarly to the Mavik’s battery hub, the Tello Hub can only charge one battery at a time.  

These two drones will have vastly different purposes within Pomona’s HPC department. The Mavik is an enthusiast-level drone capable of 30 minutes of flight time and 18KM of range on a single charge (under optimal, zero-wind conditions, of course). The Mavik’s previously described camera technology alongside its impressive flight capabilities combine to create a drone fit for purposes including footage capture, data modeling, and remote exploration. This drone’s enhanced features and extended range warrant trained pilots and communication between Pomona College and local airports prior to flying, which HPC is currently looking into. 

Contrastingly, the Tello EDU drone is a cheap mini-quadcopter designed to enable drone flight to anyone while simultaneously teaching the fundamentals of drone programming. The Tello lasts just under ten minutes on a charge, and its size/limited controller range prevent the drone from flying outdoors. Even though Tello’s capabilities are limited, the combination of easy-to-use apps and a basic SDK make it a perfect drone for inexperienced or simply curious users. Tello can receive commands issued over a Wi-Fi UDP server in Python, Swift, and Scratch, which individuals can use to program their own controllers or predetermined routines. Additionally, more advanced programmers can craft swarming programs that enable multiple Tellos to “think” as one or software that trains the Tello’s proximity sensor and camera to recognize objects such as people or animals through machine learning. 

Both drones present their own unique use cases, and myself alongside HPC looks forward to experimenting with and mastering these miniature flying marvels. 


By David D’Attile

Author: Amin Nash

HPC Support - Blog Editor CGU Student - Master's in English '20