Isn’t DJI’s new drone just the cutest little thing?
The new DJI Spark is much smaller than other quadcopters on the market; the body is about the size and weight of a can of La Croix.
It arrives in mid-June for $500. It shoots HD video, has a 2-axis gimbal stabilizer on the camera, and comes with on-board software that mitigates shake and shutter roll. It tops out at 31 mph and stays aloft for 16 minutes. Not crazy-bonkers specs, but it is just so, so tiny.
By far the coolest Spark feature is its gesture-controlled flight mode, allowing you to send the drone overhead to take an aerial photo of you and your buds with just simple hand movements.
When you turn it on and hold it out in front of you, the Spark uses the camera to look for its pilot. The camera spots you, then the Spark springs to life and starts hovering. From there, gestures take over. Hold up a palm and move it side to side, and the Spark follows your hand. Wave at it, and it flies 10 feet away, keeping you centered in the shot. When you walk around, the drone continues to track you. A two-handed “picture frame” gesture snaps a photo. When you’re done, wave at the Spark, hold out your hand, and it flies down and lands in your outstretched palm. Your phone stays in your pocket the whole time.
There are some automated software controls in the companion app as well. QuickShots, a series of pre-determined, dramatic action shots, let you command the Spark with one tap in an app. Make it do an overhead zoom-out, a sweeping crane shot, or a circular orbit. You end up with a complex, epic-looking shot that you can edit and share right from the app.
A separate phone-based remote control is available as an add-on; same with DJI’s first-person video goggles, which can pair with the Spark.
Let’s Get Small
Size matters. A one-pound drone just seven or eight inches across is something you can toss into your backpack without a second thought. DJI’s next-biggest flyer is the $1,000 Mavic drone that folds up; also small, but not this small. Yuneec has the similarly-priced (but still bigger) Breeze drone, and GoPro entered the market last year with its own folding drone, the $800 Karma. But all of those require some sort of remote control, not to mention some expertise. With the Spark, ease-of-use is taken to the extreme.
Most consumers just want a drone that’s easy to pilot—something they can take out of the box and start using to shoot sharable video right away without crashing it or spending hours learning how to fly it. The Spark’s gesture-controlled mode gets new pilots flying and snapping and sharing in just the first few minutes without having to futz with a controller or an app. That’s an airtight consumer experience.