DJI recently unveiled the DJI Spark, a palm-sized drone aimed at casual users and enthusiasts. Despite its size and somewhat “toyish” looks, this mini drone is packed with features that will leave even the most experienced drone flyers drooling.
The world’s largest consumer drone maker answered the need for portability with the backpack-sized, folding prop Mavic Pro drone last year. It’s now back with the Spark, the smallest and lightest drone from the popular drone maker. At just 300g the Spark makes the Mavic look like a giant in comparison.
Before we get into the technical specs of the camera and flight, I think it is important to emphasize just how smart this drone is. It is smart!… and easy use too. It is marketed more as a selfie drone, one you can effortlessly pull out from your backpack or pocket, take off, control, and take pictures, all with just hand gestures. Yes that’s right, just wave your hands in the air (like you don’t care)… the Spark will track your palm and move as you command it. This is where you feel like a Jedi Knight.However, for greater flying distance and access to more features, you could link it to your smartphone via Wi-Fi and control it using onscreen joysticks, or use the remote control that’s bundled in the combo package as how you would with any of DJI’s other mainstream drones.
As with all drone reviews on this site, let’s take a look at the essential features first.
Design and Size (9 out of 10)
When DJI launched the Mavic Pro last year, the biggest selling point was its highly compact and extremely portable form. DJI has outdone itself with the Spark. At less than half the weight of the Mavic, not to mention the Phantom, this drone fits easily into your backpack, handbag or even your jacket pocket. In addition, the fact that it does not need a remote control to fly means that you would need to carry one less item.
Measuring in at a measly 143mm x 143mm x 55mm including the propellers, its body alone is smaller than an iPhone 5.
The only reason it did not get a 10 out of 10 here is the fact that its arms are not foldable like the Mavic’s, although it still has those foldable propellers. This means it may be slightly bigger than some of its competitors such as the Zerotech Dobby when folded up. This however, has its plus points in the build quality sector.
The non-foldable arms gives the DJI Spark a sturdier frame and body structure. Less moving parts and joints equals less wear and tear. With its miniscule size and colorful plastic, it may come across as a toy. But it is actually made out of durable engineering plastic and is able to put up with some beginner pilots’ crashes.
Design wise, it is small and cute, yet sleek and professional looking. The indicator lights on the Spark don’t come off as cheap looking, and those black propellers really makes it look less of a toy. As for the controller, it uses a similar design as the Mavic, minus the little screen.
With 5 striking body colors to choose from – Alpine White, Meadow Green, Sunrise Yellow, Sky Blue, and Lava Red, you can easily see that this drone is aimed at the mainstream consumer market. Drones are more accessible now, and with all that new intelligent features built in, it’s really not that difficult to fly a drone nowadays. We will cover what makes the Spark’s flying capabilities in a moment.
Battery Life (7 out of 10)
Battery will still be a major factor for any drone. After all, battery life is what determines how long you can keep it up in the air. It could make that difference in capturing a long enough footage for a successful time-lapse video.
The Spark comes with a 3-cell, 1,480 mAh intelligent battery, much smaller as you might have guessed, as compared to some of the other DJI drones. This gives the Spark a maximum flight time of 16 minutes according to the spec sheet.
This definitely comes up way short when put up against the Mavic or even the Phantom 3. I was hoping it would be carrying a battery that could last at least 20 minutes. Perhaps some compromises had to be made to adapt to its petite size.
Earlier rumors indicate wireless charging for the spark. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just rumors. There will not be wireless charging. However, the battery charges up pretty quickly, taking approximately 48 minutes for a full charge.
Camera (9 out of 10)
DJI Spark features a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, similar to the Mavic, and is able to effectively capture 12MP photos. That is very good quality considering the size of the drone. It sports an f/2.6 wide-angle lens with 25mm equivalent focal length.
And while you are able to manually adjust the exposure, you also can take full advantage of the many cool camera modes such as HDR shots, Timed shots, and two brand new feature called Pano and Shallow Focus. Pano basically allows you to take either vertical or horizontal panoramas easily. Shallow Focus blurs out the rest of the photo while keeping your subject in focus. This gives you professional looking shallow depth-of-field photos that we all love.
While it only incorporates a 2-axis gimbal stabilization system, (yes that’s right, it’s 2-axis, not 3-axis) which stabilizes pitch and roll but cannot pan left and right, what’s important is that it is a mechanical gimbal. Most of its competitors within the same range only has digital stabilization, which is inferior to the quality that the Spark can produce.
Additionally with the UltraSmooth technology, this means the Spark is able produce silky smooth videos all at Full HD 1080p resolution at 30 fps. You may not be getting crisp 4k footages, but don’t judge solely based on numbers. The videos and images produced by the spark is on par, if not better than the Phantom 3, or even in some cases the Phantom 4.
Speed and Range (10 out of 10)
It is lightweight and aerodynamic and can travel up to a massive 31 mph (50 kph) when it is in sport mode. You will need to pair it with the remote controller to go into sport mode, which lets you test the full potential and enjoy the speed and freedom that this drone can offer. It also ascend at a maximum speed of 9.8 ft/s (3 m/s), which is pretty quick too.
Since the Spark can be flown in three modes, its maximum flight range increases with every mode, – from flying with just your palm, with your phone/tablet, or with the controller. The max range while flying with your phone using WiFi is 262 ft (100 m) distance, and 50 m (164 ft) height. With the controller, that range is extended up to 1.2 miles (2 km) while still able to receive a live 720p video feed.
Smart Features (10 out of 10)
Now this is where the Spark really shines. The ton of features that is packed into its tiny body is in itself an incredible feat.
One of the cool new features from DJI that is incorporated in the Spark is the Advance Gesture Control. Simply launch the drone from your palm by pressing the power button twice. It will scan your face, automatically take off and hover a few feet away from you. From here on, you can move your hand out in front of it and move the drone up, down, or rotate left and right, as though you were using the force. Wave your hand for a few seconds, and the drone will immediately fly up and away into the air by a few meters and start following you. And once you’re done, you can land it in your hand by just placing your palm out in front of you, it will track your face, recognize your hand beneath it, and land gently into your palm. This is especially great if you do not have a large enough flat surface to take off or land such as from a boat. There are several other gesture controls, which makes the Spark a really unique and exciting drone to fly.
The other outstanding feature is the FlightAutonomy system which includes the main camera, vision positioning system, 3D sensing system, dual-band GPS (GPS and GLONASS), high-precision inertial measurement unit and 24 powerful computing cores. This allows the spark to hover accurately anywhere, sense obstacles from up to 16 ft (5m) away and avoid it. Simply put, it will be pretty difficult to fly your Spark straight into a wall and crash it.
Made to shoot breathtaking videos with ease, the Spark features Quickshot. With Quickshot, all you need to do is tap once, and your drone will do the rest. There’s four choices of cool cinematic camera movements. Rocket ascends with the camera pointing downward on the subject. Dronie maes the Spark fly backwards and upwards with the camera locked on the subject. Circle is similar to Point-of-Interest where it circles around the subject and finally, the coolest one, is Helix, where it fly upwards while spiraling around you subject. Imagine that, professional cinematic videos with just a single tap.
Other more familiar features include Tapfly and Activetrack, while the essential Return-To-Home feature is included. You could pick up a pair of the new DJI Goggles and pair it with the Spark for the immersive FPV Flight experience where the camera moves with you as you fly.
So we’re done with all the cool features… well, not quite. So, in the past, sharing your drone videos would mean extracting the files from the SD card into a computer, editing it, and then uploading it to Facebook, Youtube or whatnot. Not anymore. With the DJI GO 4 app, you can edit your videos on the go from your phone or tablet easily with automatic editing templates and a wide selection of filters, and then immediately share them on social media platforms.
Overall (9 out of 10)
Made to fly with ease, the Spark could be the gateway to many more people who are interested to delve into the world of drone flying. I can’t emphasize enough how this tiny little marvel of a drone could pack so much goodies.
The only two things that could be a little of let down is the non-foldable arms, and the battery life, although it won’t be much of an issue if you’re not using it for professional or commercial droning.
The DJI Spark is set to be released onto the market on June 15th, 2017. You can start preordering it on DJI’s website. The Spark does not come with a remote controller, but you can opt for the Fly More Combo for an additional $200. It includes the controller along with several other essentials such as an additional battery and a shoulder bag.
The Fly More Combo sure seems to be a more valuable choice in the long run, to take full advantage of the Spark’s capabilities.
For the latest pricing from DJI:
==> CLICK HERE for the DJI SPARK
==> CLICK HERE for the DJI SPARK FLY MORE COMBO
To find out how DJI’s Mavic Pro compares to the new Spark, click here.