DJI's New $499 Spark Drone Looks Fun as Hell

DJI's New $499 Spark Drone Looks Fun as Hell

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.

dji spark drone release

Just look at how happy this little drone had made this previously miserable family. DJI: bringing families back together.

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.

dji spark drone colors

Express yourself with a virtually limitless range of five colors.

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.

dji spark drone

Seriously small.

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.

[via DJI]

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18 Comments

Hans Rosemond's picture

Father's Day is coming... if my wife is reading this... which she isn't.

Andrew Richardson's picture

😂 😂 😂

Ariel Martini's picture

are you your wife's father?

Tony Pardi's picture

so why does casey have to say this is not a paid advertisement? we all know its a review... i kinda want one now ;-)

Simon Patterson's picture

I think it's more a case of reviewers needing to be up front if they *are* being paid for reviews. So, they also make it very clear when their review is *not* paid for, to avoid any potential confusion and possibly to offset any further scrutiny.

In other words, if he doesn't say it, people will wonder.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

Confusion and legal issues with the FTC.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Because if he raves how good it is, trolls will accuse him of selling out and was paid to say nothing but good things.

Simon Patterson's picture

It looks very cool, although possibly the worst-of-both-worlds for many of us. I suspect it's more aimed at guys who think a smart phone is all the camera they'll ever need. It's nowhere near as portable and convenient as a $40 nanocopter, which amply provides the "fun to fly" aspect. Neither does it likely meet the minimum image stabilisation and image quality requirements of Phantoms or even the Mavic.

Uwe Neugebauer's picture

Additional info: seems that there is no DNG support yet. JPEG only 😑http://www.dji.com/mobile/spark/info

Wow, I suspected they might do this, total deal-breaker for me. And likely a totally arbitrary limitation.

"Virtually limitless range of five colors" 😂

Andrew Richardson's picture

I am an artist; the keyboard is my brush and the text entry field my canvas.

Max Video Bitrate = 24 Mbps

wow thats not so great...
but you get what you pay for

Mavic = 60 Mbps
P3P = 60 Mbps
P4P = 100 Mbps

I suspect their business plan is: "lets release a small drone thats fun but is also going to be unsatisfying to anyone who already owns a decent camera... get them hooked... & on the upgrade path!"

Michael Holst's picture

I think it's a little early to start getting negative. It's a great business move and as someone who owns many decent cameras, I'd rather buy this than any other drone. Not everyone needs the top of the line gear and I'd bet that there's many others like myself who have been waiting for a drone like this. Price isn't crazy high, it's small and takes ok footage. I'm not a videographer and I'm more interested in the 12MP still this can shoot for fun areal shots.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"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."

I sort of disagree with this. Yes, you won;t see this on a big budget set but then again they have the budget to get a proper drone.

That's like saying you won;t see a big studio use DSLRs to shoot a feature so it;s stupid for DSLRs to have video functionality. Ok so that example doesn;t stack because DSLRs are used soemtimes in features like Avengers and so on but you get my point.

Budgets aside ... how long are your takes?

You need a fly over of the location your are shooting in (kind of like what Film Riot did for their short "Potral Combat") and 15 minutes is plenty of time. You will need 3 or 4 batteries at a minimum for longer shooting days or for more complex scenes like a fast paced chase scene but that's not a major issue.

Would I use this for a big budget feature? No. Could I have used this for some reenactement scene I shot this month for a low budget ww2 documentary I was hired to shoot and edit rencently? Heck yes! This would have bumped up my production immensly and I'd only have needed 2 batteries to get all the footage I needed.

This drone isn;t going to hurt DJI what IS going to hurt DJI is their "Register your drone with us or we cut off 90% of the drones functionality". This is the reason why I won't buy anything from them ... not just drones but any of their camera rigs, anything even related to DJI.

Why are you so afraid of registering your gear?

Andrew Richardson's picture

Yeah, my statement was that drones in general from battery limitations. I specifically reference this with the Spark because it is clearly positioned as a consumer product and consumers don't want to carry five extra batteries around with them, they want to charge something and then not think about it for a bit.

Your question about takes (though I will again stress that I am not considering the Spark a "professional" drone) assumes you get it in one take and that you don't do test shots to make sure you know what you're going to get.

I never said the drone would hurt DJI, I think it's going to be a huge win for them.