If you're looking for a tiny drone that's great fun to fly, then the Spark is for you. If you're after the very best image quality or long battery life, you may want to look elsewhere.
This is the DJI Spark. A tiny drone made by the undisputed king of drone manufacturers: DJI. The Spark measures 143mm (5.63inches) square, and weighs just 300g. Being this small, and coming in at $500, I laughed when I heard about this little drone. The crazy price tag, the tiny battery, no 4K video — you can imagine my surprise when I flew this drone. In short: it’s fantastic!
Read on to find out what we thought of it, then enter the giveaway to win our review unit!
Small But Mighty
The Spark is so small you can practically fit it into your pocket. The arms don’t fold in like the Mavic Pro, however, so you can’t help but think it could be even smaller.
It’s incredibly fun flying this drone. You can squeeze through small gaps, fly close to buildings, and generally mess around. All without feeling like you’d seriously injure someone should you crash.
Obstacle avoidance ensures you won’t have any accidents, and this works very well. That said, I found it annoyed me more often than helped — the Spark regularly refused to fly in narrow gaps or close to objects when it was on. Fortunately, you can disable this feature quite easily.
Battery life is a rather abysmal 16 minutes — which equates to approximately 10 minutes of actual flight time. This is not a surprise for a drone this size, and you can always purchase spare batteries. Still, more flight time is never a bad thing, and it’s already quite expensive without purchasing extras.
The 1080p camera is surprisingly good. The lack of 4K video is disappointing, but the 2-axis mechanical gimbal does a wonderful job at stabilizing the footage. We’ve seen how shaky footage can look on drones such as the Yuneec Breeze, which don’t have a gimbal, so this is a nice feature — even though it’s not a 3-axis.
Gesture Control, Handy
Alongside a wealth of intelligent flight modes, the Spark comes with intelligent gesture control. You can launch, fly the drone, take photos, and land all with your hands — no controller required.
Launching the drone from the palm of your hand is very cool, and moving it around by moving your arm feels magical. While cool, this feature feels like a bit of a gimmick. It doesn’t serve any real function, and if anything, it makes complex shots harder to achieve.
The other intelligent flight modes do serve some purpose, however. Just like the other models in DJI’s vast range, these provide various modes to track objects, and to fly in several cinematic movements. The active tracking works very well, as do the cinematic modes, although you can easily replicate these with a little practice.
DJI Go App
You can expect to achieve about 100m range (depending on your phone), or 2000m (2km) with the controller! Even with the controller, you still need to use the app to see what you’re recording/where you’re flying, and control many of the settings.
I recommend you purchase the controller as well — it makes the Spark much easier to fly, and the extended range is incredible.
While this drone is a wonderful product, the app can be infuriating to use at times. This is the same app used for other DJI drones such as the Phantom 4, and these issues are all too familiar — I encountered them in my Mavic Pro review.
Upon taking off for the first time, the app asks you to confirm that you have permission to fly in your current location. This is not a bad idea in theory, but in practice it’s poorly implemented. If you’re using the app without the controller, you now have a drone airborne, but which you cannot control until you confirm permissions.
Another issue is tilting the camera. This feature should be accessible right from the main flight screen, but it’s hidden away in a different flight mode.
Before flying for the first time, you have to register your drone with DJI. This doesn’t take very long, however you can’t help but wonder what happens if the DJI servers are not available or disconnected — what happens then? Will you be able to fly at all?
Finally, this app always has updates — be it new maps, controls, or settings. Frequent updates are not a bad thing, but as we’ve seen with the GoPro Karma, sometimes you just want to go out and fly without the hassle of software updates (something the Karma does very well).
Image quality is excellent — as it should be for a drone costing this much. Photos look sharp, and videos are very smooth and stable.
The propellers (props) don’t appear to be visible most of the time, although I did notice them a lot in some shots where the Spark was fighting the wind. Such a tiny drone is bound to be impacted by any wind at all, and it did cope surprisingly well.
If you disabled obstacle avoidance, you can fly very close to objects. This can look very impressive when playing back the recorded videos. It often looks like the Spark is about to crash, when it’s actually very far away from an obstruction.
A Tiny Spark or a Mighty Flame?
The Spark is brilliant fun to fly. Because it’s so small, you can carry it with you wherever you go. People aren’t terrified of it, and it’s seen as more of a toy than a buzzing annoyance. But it’s not a toy — far from it. .
The app could be much better, but hopefully this can improved with a software update.
While quite expensive, it’s very impressive how much tech is packed into the Spark, although it’s still not enough to really bring drones into the mass market.