Drones are now everyday consumer devices. DJI is positioning itself here in the video drone segment for beginners. The DJI Spark represents both an impressive feat of engineering.
It is by far the smallest and cheapest drone from DJI, and the number 1 company in the drone market. It has also added control modes via gestures. This will make you think you are Darth Vader the time of a 16-minute flight lesson.
For the purposes of this test, a friend lent me his Spark in the classic version without radio control and with a battery for about a week and a half.
As I’ve found, there is still a lot of effort to be made to make the experience perfect.
DJI Spark – the smallest and cheapest
No bigger than a soda can and probably smaller than the XXL size smartphone you probably already have in your pocket, the DJI Spark is an example of miniaturization.
Although it is really tiny, this mini drone is fully equipped with technologies found on 350 size drones used for video including obstacle detection, GPS, stabilization and the ability to recognize the gestures of its user’s hands and use them as commands.
Measuring 143 x 143 x 55 mm and weighing 300 grams, the Spark mini-drone is a device that you can easily insert into a purse or even hang on your belt.
This one comes in a small foam box that’s really no bigger than headphones and is easy to carry around in your bag. The box also has compartments for four replacement propellers and two extra batteries.
Aside from its small size, the Spark is the first DJI drone to come in a variety of colors : Summit White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Magma Red, and Dawn Yellow.
The arrival of different colors available is a really significant element of customization in a drone market that traditionally favors a mixture of gray, white and black.
In terms of looks, the Spark looks a lot like the DJI Mavic Pro in miniature version and with fixed arms. It has an angular body with its dual-axis mini gimbal and camera hanging below the front sensor array.
Like on its bigger brother the Mavic Pro , the DJI Spark also has small underside pads rather than extended landing gear like on the Phantom range. This is partly to keep the drone as small and compact as possible while still making it comfortable enough for handheld use.
The good news here is that you can fold the propellers back on themselves like on the Mavic.
If you are looking for the code for the WIFI connection look under your battery !
Use and Control
Once the batteries are fully charged, you will only need a few seconds to power up and link to your smartphone or tablet via the DJI Go 4 app .
Despite its small size, the DJI Spark has powerful motors that make it nimble in the air even outdoors. The stabilization does its job well, especially if you activate the famous vision positioning system. However, it inevitably has more difficulty flying in the presence of a good breeze.
The Spark may be small, but its body is solid and very well made. The limbs of the drone seem really very solid and fixed on a robust mini frame.
However, like on the Mavic, the low ground range is bound to make landings on uneven and rocky surfaces more difficult.
If you want, you can skip the controller and command the DJI Spark with simple gestures thanks to the new feature called PalmControl.
At the autonomous mode level, DJI has also introduced four new automatic flight modes called Quickshots, which resemble those present on the GoPro Karma (Auto Shot Paths).
Watchword: make the flight ever more automated!
The four modes include:
- Rocket, sends the drone directly into the sky with the camera pointing down
- Dronie, to take an aerial selfie
- Circle, where the drone rotates around the user
- Spiral, draw a spiral path upwards
Apart from the new features, you will find the already well-known intelligent flight modes! Such as TapFly to automatically navigate by pointing to a destination on your return screen, ActiveTrack, the famous DJI subject recognition and tracking mode.
PalmControl: drone control using gestures
PalmControl is practical but I advise you to use this function in a clear place to avoid any problem.
You can launch the drone from the palm of your hand after it scans your face for better recognition of the subject in flight. From there, you will be able to use your hand to take control of this drone like a moving object with the Force.
Although PalmControl is quite intuitive and fun to use, it is also requires a lot of contrast and a good level of brightness (neither too much nor not enough) to operate correctly. You will sometimes have to be patient and try to play with the recognition distance from the drone as well as several different attempts to execute gestures to achieve a lock (green light on the arms).
According to my tests, controlling the drone by gestures is sometimes difficult for beginners and the recognition system can be little bit fussy.
Another constraint of PalmControl is that you must be within 3 meters of the drone for it to recognize your gestures .
When everything is going well and PalmControl is working perfectly, the feeling is really fun, even magical. I personally find this rather disconcerting and I never thought I could control a drone so easily without a remote control. It is also much more approachable for less experienced dronists wishing to learn how to fly drones.
Sensor on the front of the drone
Although the Spark features collision sensing technology as part of its FlightAutonomy system, its sensors only work on the front end. The obstacle avoidance sensor array consists only of a main camera and a forward-facing 3D detection system, which is already really good for a quad of this size.
It also has the famous VPS system for better positioning in flight , a dual-band GPS (global positioning system), GLONASS (Russian Global Navigation Satellite System) and a high-precision inertia measurement unit that help the drone to navigate and find their bearings in the air.
The DJI Spark can detect when you’re going to fly it too close to a pole for example, but it won’t be able to detect if it’s about to back up into a tree. This is a limitation you will need to keep in mind when activating Quickshots modes for example.
Despite some limitations necessarily related to its size once again, it still has more positioning assets than the Gopro Karma.
As for recording capabilities, the main camera is equipped with a 1/2.3-inch 12-megapixel CMOS sensor capable of capturing Full HD video (1080p at 30 fps) and outputting images of 3.968 x 2.976 resolution.
I admit to having been surprised by the good quality of the photo sensor given the size of it! The Spark takes very good photos for a small drone.
DJI is clearly positioned in the mini leisure drone segment, the Spark only allowing you to take photos in JPEG and not in RAW as is generally the case with the brand’s other models.
The colors are rather well rendered and not too saturated like on the Mavic Pro and the field of vision, although narrower, gives good results.
At the video level, the maximum resolution obviously does not allow the results obtained with the DJI Mavic Pro and the GoPro Karma to be achieved, which can record them in 4K. It is still very correct given the size of the sensor and offers satisfactory results for sharing videos on the web.
The mechanical image stabilization eliminates most of the vibrations caused by the drone or the blowing wind but is also not exceptional, which is to be expected given the size of the machine. You will find drones with better performance in our drone buying guide .
With only a few smart flight modes but a lower price, the Yuneec Breeze is a serious competitor to the Spark.
Speaking of limitations…
However, once the excitement has passed, if you look at its features in detail, the little Spark runs into some unavoidable issues which are of course limitations mainly related to its mini size and which we will address later in this review.
One of the biggest issues with the DJI Spark is its limited connectivity , which is partly due to its small size, not allowing for a larger Wi-Fi antenna. When connected to a smartphone, as in my test, the effective range of the drone is 100 m “large maximum”.
In my experience, the signal starts to degrade around 50 meters.
I’ll spare you the details concerning the total impossibility once again to use my good old Samsung Galaxy Note 5 which I finally decided to get rid of for an iPhone. DJI has big problems on Android! On the agenda here with the Note 5, extreme latency, inability to start video recording or taking photos, inability to be recognized via PalmControl briefly switching to the iPad while waiting to change my smartphone!
In more urban areas, even flying the drone at only 35 m (on the iPad), this caused bugs in the video return and signal level of the drone. Worse still, the control on the drone was intermittently cutting out and leading to jerky and really spurious movements.
Requires remote control for better results
I’ve never been a big fan of smartphone or tablet flying to be honest. It’s mainly for signal reasons and all the limitations that can entail. I would strongly advise against investing in a Spark without its remote control. It’s sold additionally or via the Flymore pack if you want to do more than selfies! It is in no way intended to push the purchase here. Believe me you will thank me for the advice.
Many of these problems are solved by the dedicated remote control . However, it is an additional purchase of 179 euros if you have just purchased the drone.
It is a necessary accessory, as it extends the range of the drone to 2 km and makes it much easier to control. I have not tested this version but it is obvious that most of the connection or signal problems encountered with my tablet disappear with the use of the dedicated remote control (DJI did not disappoint on the Mavic with its Ocusync signal) .
With the remote control, you can also use Spark’s sport mode. It allows it to fly up to an advertised speed of 50km per hour.
Combined with the DJI Goggles for FPV it must really be a fun experience!
Autonomy is not just average!
Another shortcoming is that the battery allows to reach 12-14 minutes of flight time and not 16 as announced by the Chinese firm.
A piece of advice keep some juice to be able to land safely!
This is the lowest battery life we’ve seen on DJI-branded drones. But it’s still impressive considering the Spark’s power pack is really small. GoPro’s Karma runs just as long with a battery that’s easily five times the size…
The Spark can be charged via its microUSB port. You’ll probably need a spare battery (or two) if you want to do anything more than just hover and take some selfies.
Compatibility new DJI Goggles
The Spark is of course compatible with DJI Goggles for immersive flight and a unique flight experience. The gimbal switches to FPV mode here to give you full control over the shots!
DJI offers, as on its other models, its DJI Refresh , assistance to be used in the event of technical problems.
Packs & colors
- Available via the official DJI website or Amazon , the Spark is available in two versions and 5 colors:
- Standard package
- white top
- Blue sky
- green meadow
- red magma
- yellow dawn
There is no doubt that the Spark is the most affordable DJI drone offering intuitive gesture controls, a really compact size but a bit high price still to compete with other quadcopters in this mini video drone market.
Thanks to PalmControl, now Quickshots, and more comprehensive smartphone integrations are possible. DJI has broken down multiple entry barriers that make drones intimidating to many consumers.
That said, the Spark’s experience isn’t flawless in every way, especially if you’re not using it with a controller. Gesture controls can be tricky and require a little (sometimes a lot) of patience. The short flight time also requires you to equip yourself with spare batteries. If you are looking for more than a selfie drone experience if I may say so.
It is clear that this model will improve over time knowing that DJI is known for regularly updating its drones.
Its mini size and photo/video quality make it an interesting quadcopter for travelers or vloggers
Good & Bad sides in my view:
|Easy to fly – Assisted piloting!||Connection via Smartphone not perfect|
|Super compact – easy to carry||Low battery life|
|Obstacle avoidance option on the front for added flight safety||Recognition of the subject not always in focus|
|PalmControl Mode and Gestures||Limited quality in video.|
|Intelligent Flight Modes||Optional radio control|
|Positioning in flight rather good|
|Good quality photos|
My Ratings: 8.3 out of 10
DJI Spark – An Excellent Drone considering its Size and Price!
The Spark is a high-quality mini video drone that will allow beginners who want to progress in photo and video to get their feet wet while taking advantage of many intelligent flight modes and limited anti-collision assistance!
Technical characteristics: 8.5
Design and Handling: 8.5
Video and photo performance: 8
Flight performance: 8
Should you buy it?
If you are on a tight budget, then take a look at mini drones . They are generally quite fun to drive but much more limited in terms of photo/video.
It remains a drone between 550 and 750 euros (which already represents an interesting budget to start with a drone) and you could prefer a Yuneec Breeze which offers 4K (but with fewer intelligent flight modes) or a Zerotech Dobby which also offers 4K, voice control but a battery life of only 9 minutes. These two drones are cheaper than the Spark, maybe not as complete but they represent good alternatives.
In this price range, you also have access to the Bebop 2 (with or without remote control) which is an excellent drone for beginners in video and will surely be a better choice for the most serious level photo / video. The Phantom 3 is also available in a standard version and is a good option for people who are more serious about video/photography.