This new little travel drone is another spectacular addition to DJI’s ever-growing roster of rosy products. The Spark is about half the weight of DJI’s Mavic (reviewed below) and its body is much smaller. However, because its propeller arms don’t fold, it won’t fit in a jacket pocket like the folded Mavic will. But, hey, this titchy air gizmo is still incredibly portable and probably the smartest and best equipped selfie drone in existence right now. It’s also extremely confidence-inspiring to fly and is available in five rich primary colours.
The Spark comes with front obstacle avoidance and is rock steady when flown indoors or out. Its camera shoots very acceptable 1080p video and 12megapixel photos and is equipped with a two-axis mechanical stabilizer for relatively smooth video footage. The battery provides around 16 minutes of flight time, which can be considered good for a drone of this size.
You can fly the Spark in three ways: using hand gestures, a mobile device or Spark’s dedicated hand controller. Gesture mode doesn’t require anything but your face and hands and is perfect for quick selfies. Simply place the Spark on the palm of your hand, press the rear button and it recognises your face before automatically launching into the air a few feet above the ground. Now, rather like those weird people you see practicing Taikwondo in the park, start performing the prerequisite series of hand gestures and the titchy Spark will take a selfie from up to several metres away.
Things get even more interesting when the Spark is used with DJI’s new Go 4 app (iOS and Android). Here you’re given the option to automatically video complex QuickShot sequences like Circle (the drone orbits the user), Helix (similar to Circle, but the drone spirals up and away) and Rocket (the Spark flies straight up with the camera facing down). The app also lets you track your movements or TapFly to a specific area on the map. Naturally, you can also use your thumbs on the device’s screen to steer it where you want. Expect no more than 100m distance when using just a mobile device. Finally, if you want to fly further (up to 1.2 miles away) and make better use of the drone’s little camera, use the dedicated hand controller.
While not designed for high-quality videography (it can’t shoot in 4K and the gimbal doesn’t have a handy yaw axis which smoothes out sideways shots), the Spark still shoots excellent video and stills (certainly the best in its class). It’s also reassuringly tough as nails, as so aptly demonstrated at a recent DJI event when a rep accidentally flew one at full speed (50kph) into a tree branch and the only thing damaged was a prop. Everything else, camera included, worked perfectly. That’s reason enough to snap one up right away.