dji spark review

DJI Spark Review: An amazing, low-cost drone (90% of the time)

Looking for a good-quality camera drone that costs less than $500? Without a question, it’s the DJI Spark.

But hold on. Is it a perfect drone? No. But is it the first major step in an extraordinary era of ultra-smart sensors in drones? Absolutely.

The $499 Spark was announced in May 2017 as DJI’s smallest drone to-date — addressing concerns (much like the Mavic), that drones like the Phantom and from non-DJI competitors are just too cumbersome to tote around.

See related: DJI Mavic vs. Spark — which is better?

The Spark is notable for two reasons: 1. It’s incredibly small — (it’s small enough to fit in a large coat pocket) and 2. It’s operated primarily via gesture control, meaning a sensor can recognize hand and body patterns, and fly in sync with your movements.

And then for the bad news (as we get to the not perfect aspect of the DJI Spark): that gesture control. The drone’s sensors are supposed to detect its user’s body movements such as raising and lowering your hands or waving them, as pictured in the video above. It then can interpret those gestures to follow commands such as flying up and down, or taking a picture.

One of the promised features is that the DJI Spark can even take off and land in the palm of your hand — an incredibly difficult feature to implement that hopeful competitors like Lily once promised — and failed to deliver. (The drone startup Lily filed for bankruptcy and never shipped a drone to any of the over 61,000 people who pre-ordered one.)

And 90% of the time, it works beautifully. But the other 10% of the time, the takeoff looks a little bit more like this:

And that wasn’t the only “fail” I had. Here was an attempt to get my drone to move sideways, but instead it moved backwards — nearly hitting a wall:

Other reviewers have noted similar issues. TechCrunch noted how their drone ended up “covered in dirt and grass and the sacrificial blood of one poor TC staff member.”

Though, the Spark has added a number of safety features — notably, if the drone ends up on its side, the propellers will automatically shut off — a feature that has been far too long in coming to drones.

The gesture control is neat. I’ve referred to it as the stuff of Jedi Mind Tricks, and I stand by that. It’s just that every once in a while, I feel like Qui-Gon and the Spark has turned into a Toydarian, completely immune to any mind tricks.

DJI Spark Review: the remote controller

Even if the gesture control worked 100% of the time, it is hard to get extremely accurate flight with just hand gestures. If you do end up getting the Spark, I would definitely recommend springing the extra $200 for the“Fly More Combo” which comes with the remote controller as well as extra batteries.  The controller is the same one that the Mavic uses, which will allow for precise flight — essentially for photographers wanting to get a specific image.

DJI Spark Review: the camera

Speaking of getting better images, the DJI Spark can record in full HD 1080p video. That’s going to be lesser quality than the Phantom 4 or Mavic, and might not be good enough for people looking to make money off their images, but it’s not bad either — especially given how small the drone is.

Other DJI Spark specs

Here are a few other specs worth noting, before making the decision to purchase a DJI Spark:

  • Battery life: 12-15 minutes
  • Weight: 300 grams
  • Dimensions: 143×143×55 mm
  • Max speed: 31 mph in Sport mode

The DJI Spark is lightyears beyond similarly-priced “competitors” like the bland Parrot Bebop 2 and Yuneec Breeze. It’s also more likely a better bet than the Phantom 3 Standard, which has gone through a series of price drops to bring it down to about the same price point. (While the Phantom 3 Standard will offer you about 10 minutes more of battery life and shoots 2.7K video, it’s about 4x the weight and significantly bigger). Keep in mind though, that you will likely want to spend $200 more to get that controller, which actually prices it above the competitors.

If you want drone that delivers on 100% of its promises, get another DJI product such as the Inspire or the DJI Mavic.

But if you want a drone that pushes the boundaries (albeit not perfectly), then the DJI Spark does just that. The sensor technology certianly needs to be improved with the Spark. I greatly look forward to the Spark 2.

For someone looking to get into drones at a fairly low price point with a product that has some of the most innovative technology out there, the Spark is the perfect drone.



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