To underscore the benefit of having a personal drone with you at all times, DJI went to one of busiest places in New York City, Grand Central Station, and showed off the new DJI Spark Personal Drone. And DJI is calling it the smallest, smartest, and simplest drone to fly … ever.
DJI did a survey and found that nearly half the country was planning to buy a personal drone within the next year. If that number holds up, it points to a personal drone as being almost as desired as a smartphone. To that end, DJI knew they would have to redesign it from the ground up to not only make it as easy to use as a smartphone, but also to use as a part of a normal day. That’s where Spark comes in handy, literally.
The Spark drone is ready to fly within seconds of pulling it out of a backpack or bag. You no longer need to do the “calibration dance” to get it ready to fly. You just turn it on and the Spark’s camera reads your face to recognize you, and then takes to the sky, flying about ten feet away and hovering. You don’t even need a controller; in this limited “selfie” mode, Spark is controlled with hand and palm gestures.
To take a picture you simply make a square with your fingers and a few seconds later it snaps a selfie. To land it, you just wave at the Spark, and it comes back to you and lands in the palm of your hand. Simply put, Spark is absolutely brilliant.
If you want to fly a little further out, Spark can be controlled through the DJI Go app at a range of 100 yards, or up to a mile away with the optional Spark controller. The new drone’s ability to keep its subject in frame is due to dual GPS and GLONASS satellite assistance, as well as its own visual positioning system that uses the Spark’s cameras to understand where it is in the sky, should it lose GPS lock. That means Spark is far less likely to fly away from you.
Spark has a 14 megapixel camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor, and is capable of shooting 1080p video at 30 fps. It also has four intelligent shooting modes called “QuickShots” that are designed to give you professional, cinematic shots like Orbit, Rock, Dronie (selfie mode), and a spiraling shot known as Helix. Activate with a simply double tap on your smartphone. With Quick Shots, Spark shoots a minute of video and then automatically chooses the best ten second clip for you to share.
The 4th generation DJI Go App also has quick video editing feature that will automatically take your aerial shots and put them together into a single, 30-second clip with text and music for you to share online. There’s also two still modes including Panoramic, and a shallow focus mode that looks like a cross between bokeh and tilt-shift. I think it’s DJI’s attempt at doing what Apple does in Portrait mode with the iPhone 7 Plus.
Unfortunately flight time is fairly limited on the Spark, up to 16 minutes, but when you consider how small it is, that’s understandable. But Spark makes up for it with interchangeable batteries, and in a first, it can be charged via microUSB, so you can bring along a power brick and recharge your drone on the go. There’s also a charging hub.
Lastly, DJI is extending their optional DJICare insurance coverage to include the Spark, which will enable those who purchase the insurance to replace their drone up to two times, should calamity rear its ugly head.
“Today, with Spark, flying a drone has become a whole lot less intimidating for a lot of people.” – YouTuber Julian Solomita
Spark comes in five colors: Alpine white, sky blue, meadow green, lava red, and sunrise yellow, and costs $499. Or you can get the Fly More Combo Kit which includes the optional controller, propeller guards, extra battery, charging hub and case for $699. Available for pre-order today at DJI.com, shipping in mid-June.
So the Spark doesn’t have the 4K camera we thought it would, but I say, so what? For the price and the size, Spark is essentially the flying personal camera we’ve been waiting for. And it could be good for action filmmakers, too.