DJI just announced their latest drone, the $499, borderline pocket-sized Spark. The Spark is smaller than a dinner plate, weighs less than a can of Coke, and packs some of DJI's coolest tech inside its teensy tiny body.
One of the barriers to making drones a widespread consumer product is finding a way to make one small enough and intuitive enough for your everyday user. Over the past year or so, we've seen a range of mini drones from no-name companies hit the market, but none seem to have latched on. DJI is launching the Spark at the perfect time to really capture the public interest and capitalize on a fairly unsaturated market.
At just a hair over half a pound (0.6 pounds to be precise), the Spark is incredibly transportable; throw it in your pocket, bag, backpack, purse, whatever. But just because it's small doesn't mean DJI skimped on the tech inside the Spark by any means. The Spark inherits the same intelligent ActiveTrack and TapFly modes from the Phantom 4, including a new TapFly sub-mode called Coordinate that "allows Spark to fly to a location you tap on your mobile device screen." The Spark also has DJI's 3D Sensing System to help it avoid in-air collisions.
The camera on the Spark is a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor that captures 12 megapixel photos and shoots stabilized HD 1080p videos. The Spark also has a two-axis gimbal and DJI's UltraSmooth technology to help reduce shake and provide smooth cinematic shots.
So here's the bad-ish news: the Spark only has about 16 minutes of flight time. Battery life is, in my opinion, the single greatest hurdle drones have to overcome and that opinion stays true for the Spark as well. The good news is that you can swap out batteries and charge on the go via Micro-USB. This is definitely not a drone targeted for a full-scale film shoot, but it should absolutely be great for people wanting to grab quick footage wherever they may be.
Quick note, the Spark also has motion controls that track your hand and respond to hand gestures. I've run into very few motion control systems in any level of consumer tech that actually worked well, so until I see it in practice I'm going to assume that the magic hand waving feature is more of a gimmick than anything else. Feel free to prove me wrong DJI, but the idea that anyone could just wave at my drone and make it come to them is not entirely comforting. I'm hoping it's an optional setting that you can disable.
The base kit for the Spark starts at $499 and that gets you the drone, three pairs of propellers, and the USB charger. You can also spring for the Spark Fly More Combo for $699 and get yourself the drone, two batteries, four pairs of propellers, propeller guards, a charging hub, a shoulder bag, and all necessary cables.
Casey Neistat got his hands on one (of course) and gives a pretty great rundown of what the Spark can do in this video. He even compares to footage from the Spark against the Mavic and, to my eyes, the Spark wins hands down.
So what do you think? DJI is launching their first drone squarely aimed at the mass consumer market, and based on specs and previews from guys like Neistat, it looks like they might have a real winner on their hands. I'll be honest, I think this might be the first drone I actually buy. I don't do a lot of video work that requires a drone, I just want something small and capable that I can take with me pretty much wherever I go and I think the Spark might be it.
The Spark is available for preorder from B&H now, with shipments expected to begin in mid-June.