A spark of genius? DJI bills its new $499, cellphone-sized Spark drone as “the easy and fun camera drone for everyone.”
Indeed, Spark opens drone stills and video to a wider market while still having professional capabilities.
Priced at $499 (£519, €599) Spark is little larger than a cell phone and weighs only 10.6 ounces (300 grams). Its camera boasts a single 1 /2.3” 12 megapixel image-stabilized CMOS sensor. The addition of a 2-axis mechanical gimbal allows smooth video shots up to 1080p60.
At the product announcement held in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, assembled press saw Spark take off from palm of the operator’s hand where it automatically entered Gesture mode. The drone can then be totally controlled by hand motions, including hand motions to instruct it to shoot a selfie and then return to land in the operator’s hand.
For more complex shooting, Spark can be controlled by an app with four QuickShot intelligent flight modes including Drone, Circle, Rocket and Helix. It incorporates previous DJI innovations including TapFly and Active track.
An optional remote controller enables Sport Mode, with speeds up to 31mph (50kph) and for those looking for a totally immersive flight, it is compatible with DJI Goggles.
It shares flight safety and accuracy features with the higher end DJI craft with 3D sensing and object avoidance. And it can wirelessly transmit 720p video over a mile.
(For the complete list of features, see DJI’s press release over the page.)
But for our discussion, more significant than reciting features and specs is how Spark shifts the focus of the drone market.
DJI strongly pitches Spark as a vehicle for individuals — bloggers, selfie-taking dog walkers, family events and generally just fun things. It brings drones within the reach of the casual user with both positive and negative consequences.
On the positive side, Spark is an easy to fly and safety-laden aircraft that is very accessible to new pilots. Gone are the days of flying your new hobby drone into a tree the first time you take it off.
Spark allows for new modes of individual creative expression, not just through the flight and shooting modes it embodies, but also through an editing app which can create a finished video and then upload it, for example, to social media all without opening a dedicated NLE. The more content creators we have the more we can all benefit from creative endeavours.
It is also worth noting that this drone, which has the promise of huge worldwide sales, arrives the day after a US court overturned the FAA’s drone registration requirements. While no doubt the FAA will appeal the case, the thought of even more remote controlled aircraft in the skies without any ability to track their owners is concerning on a number of levels.
Drones are not toys and drones operated around aircraft invite disaster. Can we restrict a technology because of reckless operators? I suspect that such an argument can be made but refuted. DJI’s safety features will no doubt limit irresponsible use. Still, I am concerned about too easy an access to a technology that may not be fully understood by a broad user base.
The bottom line, though, is that Spark is a powerful, easy to operate, device that will deliver beautiful images and offers unlimited creative possibilities.
Oh, and it comes in 5 colours. Make mine Lava Red...
DJI Launches Spark, The Easy And Fun Camera Drone For Everyone The Company’s First Mini Drone Lets You Capture Special Moments From The Air Just By Moving Your Hands
May 24, 2017 — DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, Wednesday launched Spark, an easy-to-use, fun-to-fly mini camera drone that lifts off from the palm of your hand to capture and share the special moments in your life on the go.
Thanks to DJI’s powerful technology, Spark is the first drone that users can control by hand gestures alone, successfully removing the barriers between you and your camera in the sky. Even if you’ve never flown a drone before, flying Spark is easy because the only remote controller you’ll need is your hand.
When Spark takes off from your hand, it automatically enters Gesture Mode. This features new advanced gesture controls like PalmControl, which lets users control Spark with hand movements. In Gesture Mode, you can also send Spark up and away from you, take a selfie, and call it back with just your hands.
“Controlling a camera drone with hand movements alone is a major step towards making aerial technology an intuitive part of everyone’s daily life, from work and adventure to moments with friends and family,” said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager at DJI. “Spark’s revolutionary new interface lets you effortlessly extend your point of view to the air, making it easier than ever to capture and share the world from new perspectives.”
Spark has been designed to be the perfect lifestyle accessory you can take anywhere. It fits easily in almost any bag and weighs just 10.6 ounces (300 grams) – less than a can of soda. Spark is ready to launch within seconds whenever inspiration strikes and can be operated by a remote controller, a mobile device, or hand gestures alone. Spark will be available in five different colors: Alpine White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Lava Red, and Sunrise Yellow.
Visually Smart, Incredibly IntuitiveSpark comes with new and exciting flight options that empower you to effortlessly capture and share your memorable moments. The new QuickShot Intelligent Flight Mode makes creating professional videos fun and easy. Select a QuickShot, and Spark will fly along a preset flight path while recording a short video and tracking a subject along the way.
Four QuickShots are available: Rocket, sending Spark straight up into the air with the camera pointed down; Dronie, flying up and away from your subject; Circle, rotating around the subject; and Helix, spiraling away from a subject as it flies upward. For each QuickShot, Spark will automatically create a 10-second video from your flight that is ready to share on social media, where everyone can see your special moments.
Previously introduced Intelligent Flight Modes such as TapFly and ActiveTrack can also be found on Spark. Developed based on DJI's vision technology, a new TapFly sub mode called Coordinate allows Spark to fly to a location you tap on your mobile device screen. TapFly’s Direction Mode lets you keep flying in the direction you tap on the screen. Using ActiveTrack, Spark will automatically recognize and track an object you choose, keeping it at the center of the frame for perfect shots of objects in motion. Whether you are using TapFly or tracking a subject, Spark’s 3D Sensing System will actively sense obstacles in front of the aircraft.
With the remote controller accessory, operators can switch to Sport Mode and unleash Spark's speed potential of up to 31 mph (50 kph). Sport Mode sets the gimbal to first-person view (FPV) by default, so the camera moves with you as you fly. Spark will also be compatible with DJI Goggles for an immersive FPV flight experience.
Shoot Like a ProSpark houses an impressive camera with a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor that captures 12-megapixel photos and shoots stabilized HD 1080p videos. Spark's 2-axis mechanical gimbal and UltraSmooth technology dramatically reduce shake and rolling shutter effect to capture cinematic shots effortlessly.
Spark includes many previous DJI drone shooting modes with two new additions: Pano and ShallowFocus. In Pano Mode, the camera creates horizontal or vertical panoramas by automatically adjusting its gimbal and heading, taking a series of pictures and stitching them together. ShallowFocus allows you to put part of a picture into sharp focus while the rest of the image is softened, creating photographs with a shallow depth of field. An array of filters and automatic editing templates available in the DJI GO 4 app enables creators to quickly edit videos and share them directly to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
Fly with Safety, Accuracy, and Precision Spark’s FlightAutonomy system consists of the main camera, a downward-facing vision system, a forward-facing 3D Sensing System, dual-band GPS and GLONASS, a high-precision inertial measurement unit, and 24 powerful computing cores. These features allow Spark to hover accurately with vision system assistance at up to 98 feet (30 meters) and sense obstacles from up to 16 ft (5 m) away.
Like all recent DJI drones, Spark can return to its home point automatically with a sufficient GPS signal. While using the remote controller, if the battery gets too low, connection is lost, or the operator presses the Return to Home (RTH) button, Spark flies back to the preset home point while sensing obstacles in its path. Spark also integrates DJI’s GEO System or NFZ geofencing to provide you with up-to-date guidance on areas where flight may be limited by regulations or raise safety or security concerns – helping you fly safely and responsibly.
For optimal performance, Spark is powered by a high-energy density LiPo battery and has a maximum flight time of up to 16 minutes. When flying with the remote controller accessory, Spark allows for 720p real-time video transmission from up to 1.2 miles (2 km) away.
Price and Availability The US retail price of a DJI Spark, including an aircraft, a battery, a USB charger and three pairs of propellers, is $499 USD. The Spark Fly More Combo includes an aircraft, two batteries, four pairs of propellers, a remote controller, propeller guards, a charging hub, a shoulder bag and all necessary cables, with a US retail price of $699 USD. Pricing and availability of other accessories for Spark will be announced at a later date. Spark will be available for pre-order at store.dji.com, four DJI Flagship Stores, and authorized dealers. Spark pre-orders will start shipping in mid-June. Color options and Fly More Combo availability may vary at different sales channels.
DJI Care for SparkDJI Care Refresh for Spark, a new one-year coverage plan, will enable Spark customers to obtain up to two full replacements that are new or equivalent to new, for a small additional charge. DJI Care Refresh for Spark is currently available in select countries, including China, Hong Kong, the United States, Canada, 28 European Union countries, and Australia.