Hear that buzzing? It might just be the sound of DJI’s latest drone. Until now, the world’s foremost drone maker has been solely focused on high-end, enthusiast products costing $1,000 and up. Looks like they took the Tesla approach — now that they’ve established high-end drone dominance, they’re coming for the rest of the market. The palm-size DJI Spark is still one expensive toy at $500, but like any good drone, it sure does look like a lot of fun.
— DJI (@DJIGlobal) May 24, 2017
The DJI Spark is the company’s first small drone, but that doesn’t mean it’s stripped of features. Like their other drones, Spark is photography-focused, with a camera that can take video and still images. It’s not as advanced of a camera as the one found on the $1,000 and up drones, but it’ll be good enough for someone who just wants to take the drone out to a park and take some cool videos now and again.
For its size, it’s pretty incredible how much the Spark can do. Like a lot of drones, it can be controlled using a separate controller packaged with the drone or a mobile app (DJI’s VR headset is also supported). Where Spark sets itself apart is gesture control, and it’s pretty ingenious how DJI made it work.
It starts with facial recognition — Spark can start up once the camera recognizes your face, then launch with a toss from your palm (similar to what we saw from the Hover Camera Passport). The Hover Camera Passport can lock onto your face and follow you around, but the DJI Spark does one better — it endows you with the powers of the Force. We wish, but it sure looks like it! During their press conference yesterday, DJI revealed gesture controls that allow people to move the Spark from side to side with a wave of the hand. Making a frame with your hands will snap a selfie (or dronie, should that catch on), and waving both hands will summon the drone back. All of this works without need for the controller or a phone.
It’s part of a set of features that DJI has put together to appeal to drone novices. Most of the tricky aerial maneuvers that capture the most awesome drone footage have been automated here. With single button commands on the app, the drone can fly straight up with the camera pointing down, fly backwards and upwards from its target, fly in a circle around its target, or fly upwards in a spiral. And, because the drone can stream its video feed over a Wi-Fi connection, you can tap anywhere on the video feed on your phone to make the drone fly there — the Spark has flight software that uses the camera, dual-band GPS, and sensors to avoid obstacles along the way.
Spark won’t just recognize you. It can use its object detection capabilities to lock onto any moving object, then follow it while dynamically adjusting its speed to maintain consistent distance. That’s going to be awesome for recording sports and outdoor activities.
Next page: Camera, pricing, and availability