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Pooja Mistry
Pooja Mistry

Posted on • Updated on

Detecting Objects with a Tello Drone

Have you ever wanted to detect objects using live video streaming from a drone? If so, with this tutorial you now can!

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Let's Get Started

In this tutorial, we will be using Node-RED. Designed and built by IBM, Node-RED is a free open source logic engine that allows programmers of any level to interconnect IoT, cloud-based systems, web services, databases, API’s and more!

Step 1: Get started by installing Node-RED locally

You can check out this tutorial on how to install Node-RED on your local computer , or follow the commands below :

sudo npm install -g --unsafe-perm node-red

This should install Node-RED, once installed run this command :


This should point you to a Node-RED URL that you can put in your browser to see the Node-RED editor

Note: In later steps, we will be adjusting the settings.js file that comes when you install Node-RED

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Node-RED editor in your browser

Step 2: Install FFMpeg on your local computer

FFMpeg is a very powerful command-line tool that is used for performing various conversion operations on audio and video files. This tool will be the bread and butter for video streaming! It is free to use and is available for Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems

If you have a Mac, the best way to install it is by using homebrew.

Run: brew install ffmpeg to install FFmpeg locally to your computer.

This will be critical to see streams that are flowing in from your local computer!

Step 3: Install the FFMpeg Node in Node-RED

There are two ways you can install this node

  1. Do npm install node-red-contrib-ffmpeg in the same directory that node-RED (from step 1) was installed

  2. Open your node-RED browser and find node-red-contrib-ffmpeg in manage pallet

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Open hamburger menu on right hand side > manage palette

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Click install and you should see the ffmpeg node in your palette

Step 4: Train a Model

Follow this tutorial to train an object detection model .

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Once you finish this tutorial you should end up with a model_web folder.

Step 5: Copy model_web into Node-RED and adjust settings

Once you have a model_web directory with your trained object model you will need to copy that into the directory that you installed Node-RED

We will then adjust the settings.js file in your node-RED director

Open settings.js and search for and uncomment out the following

httpAdminRoot: '/editor',
httpStatic: '<path to model web directory >',

I set the endpoint of httpAdminRoot to editor, so now when you run node-red command to see your node-RED editor you will now go to this url

httpStatic will include the location of your model_web folder

Step 6: Configure your Tello Drone

Before you can use your Tello Drone you MUST activate it in the official Tello Drone app. Once your drone is activated, you can connect to it's WiFi Network TELLO-XXXXXX and send it commands via UDP

Step 7: Import Flow into Node-RED

Start Node-RED locally and Import the following flow :

To import this flow , copy the json in the GIST above to your clipboard.

On your Node-RED editor go to the hamburger menu on top right-hand side > Import > Clipboard

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Paste the json that you copied from your clipboard and click Import

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You should see the following flow on your editor :

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Step 8: Adjust Nodes and Stream from Tello!

Double click on the FFmpeg node and make sure it is configured for Tello Drone. Also by default, the URL will be set to /stream . Note, this can be changed to whatever url endpoint you want

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In this example our stream will be accessible at ws://:/stream

Using the stream
To render the video stream in the browser, we use a library called JSMpeg.

*If you changed the stream url endpoint to something else , make sure you configure this in the template node on line 58. In the default we have it set as /stream *

const url = `ws://${window.location.hostname}:${window.location.port}/<url_endpoint>

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Turn Tello Wifi On
Make sure your Tello drone is charged and you have turned it on. You should be able to connect to your Tello's wifi.

Once connected click Command and then Stream on

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Go to and you should see video streaming from your tello! If you have trained an object detection model, you should also see your tello detect objects! In my case I trained a model to distinguish between thumbs up and thumbs down

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If you want to stop stream make sure to click on the stopstream inject button in the node-RED editor

The End

That's all folks :). Thank you so much for reading!

Check out this repo if you're interested in video streaming without the object detection!

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions in the comments below, or connect with me on twitter @poojamakes

If you found this tutorial fun and helpful, it would mean a lot to me if you gave it some <3 and shared it to help others! Thank you again!

Top comments (3)

sanjpradhan profile image

Hi Pooja,

In your opinion would Node-RED scale to IoT Scale projects connecting potentially millions and potentially billions of events? Is it production IoT read in your view? Be great to get the thoughts of the community on this one.


upkarlidder profile image
Upkar Lidder

Nicely done!

jitheshkt profile image
Jithesh. KT

Nice! I see you work for IBM and from your name sounds like you are somehow connected to India. It is so hard to get this drone in India. Please do something 😒