Key Features of the DJI Spark
· Compact and lightweight design
· 12MP, 1080P main camera
· Two-axis gimbal
· Gesture controls
· Four Quick Shot Modes
· Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS
DJI have gained a reputation for being able to produce drones that are small in size but big on features, and they have continued this trend with the DJI Spark.
An impressively diminutive drone packed with great features and functions, you will be hard-pressed to find a drone of this size – and in this price range – that manages to offer users so much.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the compact size of the DJI Spark is achieved by sacrificing some of the must-have drone features, as it is simply jampacked with technology that make it a joy to operate.
From the incredible range of flight modes that allow you to feel like a professional operator with little effort to gesture recognition capabilities that allow you to control the drone with nothing but your hands, there is so much to love about the DJI Spark – and that’s before you consider the highly competitive price!
A Compact Yet Robust Design
One of the first things you will notice when unpacking the Spark is just how incredibly small it is. Comparable in size to a smartphone and weighing just 300g, the drone can be easily packed away and taken with you anywhere you go, as it will not take up too much space in even the smallest of bags.
It’s not quite small enough to fit in your pocket, but even when packed away in its travel case there is no denying that you will barely notice the weight or size of the Spark, which is certainly great for anyone planning on taking their drone out and about by foot.
Of course, with such a small size it is easy to assume that there will be a lack of technology onboard due to limitations on space, yet somehow the Spark is teeming with all manner of high-quality technology.
For instance, there are several sensors, including a forward-facing visions system that offers a degree of protection from accidental collisions.
Not only that, but there are two cameras fitted to the drone, including a downward facing camera to aid with auto-return alongside the main 1080p camera for capturing videos and photos.
The propeller guards are a nice feature and should be taken advantage of even if you’re a seasoned drone operator, as they will offer that extra protection for when those accidental collisions inevitably occur. Replacement propellers aren’t too expensive however, so if you eventually break one it won’t cost much to replace.
In all likelihood, the propellers are the only part of the Spark that might end up breaking. This is thanks in no part to the well thought out design of the drone. The cameras are tucked in for protection, while there are no legs to speak off, and the arms are so short that they won’t be at risk.
All in all, should you crash or collide with something when flying the spark, you can be safe in the knowledge that it is designed to handle it.
Next-Level Gesture Controls
Arguably the most exciting feature of the DJI Spark is its fantastic range of gesture control modes. As the name suggests, you can control the Spark using nothing but hand gestures thanks to an integrated vision system, and the results are hugely rewarding when you pull it off.
This feature is designed to allow you to take a range of awesome aerial photographs without the need for a controller, which should produce a much better photograph that doesn’t include someone trying desperately to understand the controls!
Gesture controls couldn’t be easier to use either. You start by placing the drone in the palm of your hand with the camera facing towards you. After a short moment, the drone will recognise there is a face and begin hovering in the air.
Then you simply move your hand around in any direction to get the drone to move in your desired direction or wave to command the drone to fly up and back several feet into the air for a wider shot.
Once you want a photo to be taken from the drone’s location, just make a rectangular gesture using your fingers (like a picture frame) as the final command to the take the photo. You can even call back the drone by placing your hands up into the air to make a Y-shape with your body!
The photo results are usually great, as the drone will count down a few seconds after the final gesture to produce a natural-looking aerial photograph that will certainly impress.
New and Improved Auto Modes
Despite being one of DJI’s more affordable drones, they haven’t held back any of the awesome flight modes present in their high-end range.
Much like the renowned DJI Mavic, it has a series of great auto recording modes for capturing amazing footage, and there is even a few new additions exclusive to the Spark!
For instance, there are four Quick Shot modes that can be activated by a single touch of the controller, and each one offers a great way to capture video and photographs at the touch of a button.
In each mode, you select a subject through the camera by marking a square around it on the controller, at which point the Spark then takes to the air for 30-seconds. It will record a short piece of footage based on whatever mode you choose, and the short footage captured looks highly professional.
For example, Rocket mode sees the drone ascend high into the air at a fast speed with the camera focused downwards to produce a very dramatic shot.
Each of the other Quick Shot options, along with the various other auto modes, can be used to create some wonderful pieces of footage that look and feel very cinematic. These features are awesome for creating cool-looking footage that would normally take endless hours to learn when operating manually.
Beyond the Quick Shot modes, there’s a range of other auto shooting modes that take the Spark flying experience to a whole new level. For instance, it features the ActiveTrack mode present in other DJI drones, allowing you to easily select moving objects to be targeted and followed. This follow me feature is great for making adventure videos that look like they were shot by a professional.
This is just one of the many great automatic shooting modes that can produce me truly wonderful footage, all of which can be easily viewed back in glorious HD to see all your handy work in action.
Perhaps one the biggest drawbacks for the DJI Spark is the battery life when flying. Officially claiming around 16 minutes of fighting time on a full charge, this is more of an optimistic estimation based on perfect flying conditions.
In truth, the drone averages closer to 10-13 minutes when you consider flying conditions and using various modes, features and functions. However, this is still quite a reasonable flight duration given the small size of the drone.
You get two batteries when you buy the combo pack to ensure double the flight time, although recharging these to 100 percent will take around 45 minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on the current battery life when you start to charge it.
Perhaps one of the reasons the battery life is disappointing is because the Spark is just so entertaining to fly. Operating this drone is an absolute blast, thanks in no part to the exceptional flight performance that feels like it belongs on a high-end model.
The response is up there with the best, while the flight speed is quick while being surprisingly stable, making flight control so much smoother and easier to do. This is especially helpful in windier conditions, where the drone is great at adjusting to ensure stable flight and hovering.
In terms of transmission distance, the DJI Spark will be more limited to around 100m when using a smartphone as the controller, which will be required if you haven’t purchased the combo pack that includes a separate controller.
However, controlling with a smartphone is still great fun and very easy to do, so you certainly won’t be losing any enjoyment from the Spark when using your smartphone to operate it.
Both manual and auto controls are available regardless of your controller however, so flying with either won’t offer much of a difference outside of increased performance.
Given the extra cost for the controller and how easy it is to control without, you may not feel obliged to invest in this unless you really want more transmission distance for flying further afield.
Additionally, the flight experience is made that bit better by due to the obstacle avoidance system software. This allows users to avoid accidental collisions with various obstacles up to 16 feet away, making flying the drone so much more enjoyable – and less daunting!. Note that the obstacle avoidance is there to help you out but it is not fool proof. If you are flying towards an object at high speeds in sport mode it is not going to work.
What’s more impressive about this is the fact that these features are commonly found in only the most high-end drones, including DJI’s top of the line range. So, to have such an effective sense-and-avoid system in a drone in this price range is fantastic.
Combined with the various flight modes, there is simply no denying just how great the flying experience is with the DJI Spark, regardless of how experienced you are in drone piloting.
The camera for the DJI spark isn’t capable of recording in 4K unfortunately, although the 1080p recording is certainly of a high enough quality for most users. Also, the ½.3” CMOS sensor can capture 12-megapixel images, so photos are of a very high quality, while the 1080p camera records at 30 frames per second.
This could be down to the fact that the much more expensive DJI Mavic Pro features a 4K camera, so the company didn’t want to turn all potential buyers to a much cheaper model. Therefore, if 4K footage is a must for you, then the Mavic may be the better, albeit costlier, option.
However, recording footage remains a lot of fun, and thanks to a two-axil gimbal feature the Spark’s camera remains as steady as ever no matter the flying conditions, offering some truly exceptional quality footage that looks highly professional.
Also, thanks to built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, you can send livestream footage through the accompanying app or even through social media such as with Facebook Live. If you plan on using the Spark to create social media content with top level recording footage, then the camera will still be up to the task despite the lack of 4K.
Choosing Your Controller
As previously mentioned, the DJI Spark can be controlled via a smartphone app for Android and IOS devices at no extra cost, but if you want a separate controller then you will need to splash out a little extra cash for the combo pack.
The main reason to invest in the optional controller is rather tempting – more speed and distance. For example, the top distance flying with your smartphone is 100m, but this can be significantly increased to 500m with the optional controller.
Similarly, the speed will see a ridiculous increase with the more robust controller, allowing top speeds of up to 31mph! This is a crazy amount of speed for such a small drone, and many seasoned drone pilots will certainly be happy to spend a little extra for the increased performance levels.
The accompanying smartphone app is still a fun and easy way to control the Spark in any case. Granted, you may feel a little overwhelmed your first time using the app, but after a few goes it becomes simple enough to operate with.
Highly responsive, the app allows for easy manoeuvrability and provides a fantastic live feed of your drone’s camera.
The addition of one-touch controls such as ‘return home’ are common features for drone controllers but very helpful for learning the ropes and avoiding accidental crashes and collisions.
Spark or Mavic?
You may have noticed a few comparisons between the high-end DJI Mavic Pro and the more affordable Spark, begging the question of which one is worth your money.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that the cost will be a good bit higher for the Mavic, possibly as much as 25 percent more expensive. So, what are getting for this extra investment?
Well, a few things really, but they may not be too appealing unless you are a serious fan of flying drones. For example, the Mavic enjoys a longer transmission distance and greater speeds, while also enjoying a better controller for the most part.
Another obvious difference is 4K video recording, which is a step-up from the standard 1080p on the Spark.
However, the Spark still has a fantastic set of features while being a massive amount of fun to use, just at a fraction of the cost. If you are newer to drones and plan on using it for making cool video footage, taking awesome photos, and practising your flying skills, then the DJI Spark has plenty to offer.
The Mavic Pro, as the name suggests, is better suited for pro drone pilots or those with a serious interest in filming with high quality drone footage. The extra costs buts it in the high-end prince range, and it’s only truly worth it for drone aficionados.
Our advice? Get the DJI Spark first and if you cannot get enough of it and want to take your drone piloting to the next level, then go for the upgraded model when you know it’s worth it!
DJI Spark Drone