Drone makers are racing to shrink their units down for maximum portability and usability. Last year, a handful of companies brought to market portable, pocket-sized drones built for on-the-go use, and DJI unveiled one of the smallest, most high-quality drones on the market, the Mavic Pro.
Spark, DJI’s newest drone, keeps up with this trend. Unveiled today, it’s smaller and lighter than the Mavic Pro. Though surprisingly, Spark manages to pack all the key features a consumer would want. The tiny quadcopter can record smooth footage with its gimbal, dodge obstacles with its sensors, and follow you around with its computer vision.
The drone weighs in at 10.6 ounces, and that’s less than a soda can. This is ideal because DJI markets Spark as a drone for photos and videos on the go. Controls are handled in DJI’s Go app, but there is an optional joystick controller for boosted performance. Additionally, gesture control takes the fun to a whole new level. When you move your palm side to side, the drone will track you. Give it a wave, and it’ll fly 10 feet away. A two-handed “picture frame” gesture will cue Spark to snap a photo.
Spark throttles up, down, left, and right through the app’s tap interface, and gesture control allows for hands-free flying. There’s GPS included for accurate positioning, and sensors underneath keep the drone balanced during flight. The drone is small enough that consumers can perform palm landings, but it’s probably best to attach Spark’s prop guards.
The drone’s 12-megapixel camera can shoot 1080p video at 30 frames a second. A 2-axis gimbal keeps video smooth, and that’s important as most drones this size, before, depended on lackluster digital image stabilization. The drone’s swappable battery offers roughly 16 minutes of flight time and a maximum range of 109 yards. With the optional joystick controller, Spark flies as far as 1.2 miles. More impressive is Spark’s 30 mile per hour speeds. It won’t fly for as long or as far as the Mavic Pro, but DJI is positioning Spark as the full package in a smaller package, physically speaking. Albeit, it’s a drone for close-range use with all the bells and whistles of a larger unit.
Spark is available in five different colors for $499, a considerably cheaper price in the DJI lineup of drones. The drone is expected to land on customer doorsteps by later in June, but that’s if all goes to plan. Last year, DJI faced delays with getting its Mavic Pro out to early adopters.