Chinese drone expert DJI has just launched the DJI Spark, a mini-drone about the size of a can of soft drink that is claimed to weight 300g, flies with ‘gesture control’, will follow you and costs considerably less than the GoPro Karma drone — especially when you factor in that the GoPro camera itself is a separate cost.
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- Compact size and claimed weight of 300g
- 1080p 30fps footage
- Two-axis gimbal stabilisation
- Can be controlled with hand gestures
- Autonomous ‘Follow Me’ mode with obstacle avoidance
- Claimed top speed of 31mph / 50kph
- Battery allows for 16-min of flight time
Instead of relying on a dedicated controller or your smartphone, the Spark will not only take off from your hand but can also be directed with a wave. The Spark identifies your hand as a controller and you can tell it where to go by waving it toward or away from you. If you wave with both hands the drone will come like a dog to a treat, and if you make a square with your thumbs and forefingers it will snap a selfie.
The Spark gets a similar ‘Follow me’ mode to the brand’s flagship Mavic Pro (which the GoPro Karma does not have), that will chase you down technical single track or up a mountain pass at a claimed top speed of 31mph / 50kph, provided it’s not gusty.
A high tech ‘FlightAutonomy’ system consisting 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 allow Spark to hover and accurately track the subject (you) while sensing obstacles from up to 16ft / 5m away. What this means is the drone should stay stable in the wind and you shouldn’t have to fish the Spark out of a tree while if follows you down your epic run.
The Spark also has pre-programmed motions the brand calls ‘QuickShot Intelligent Flight Mode’ where the drone will follow a preset flight path while recording a short video and tracking a subject along the way.
There are four pre-programmed flight manoeuvres to add some flair to your footage: Rocket, which sends the Spark straight up into the air with the camera pointed down; Dronie, where the Spark flies up and away from your subject; Circle, rotating around the subject; and Helix, spiralling away from a subject as it flies upward. For each QuickShot, Spark will automatically create a 10-second video from your flight, and also integrates with DJI’s GoGO 4 app that allows for you to quickly edit and share them directly to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
Some may turn their nose up at the camera specs given 4k seems to be almost standard nowadays, but the Spark still films in 1080p at 30fps stabilised by a two-axis gimbal, and takes 12-megapixel photos, too.
Of course, it’s not just for epic selfies; you can fly the thing with your smartphone at a distance of up to 109yd / 100m or 1.2mi / 2 km with an optional remote control.
Like all recent DJI drones, Spark can return to its home point automatically with a decent GPS signal. While using the remote controller, if the battery gets too low, the connection is lost, or you push the Return to Home (RTH) button, the Spark flies back to the preset home point while sensing obstacles in its path.
The 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 so you don’t get arrested trying to capture your ride.
Powered by a rechargeable LiPo battery, the Spark has a maximum flight time of up to 16 minutes (the Karma is claimed to last 20 minutes). When flying with the remote control accessory, Spark allows for 720p real-time video transmission from up to 1.2 miles / 2 km away.
DJI says the Spark will be available mid-June. It’s set to retail for $499, which is $300 less than the Karma Drone that also requires you to have a GoPro camera.