Camera drone maker DJI revealed its newest, smallest drone on Wednesday, the Spark, which its owner can control with only their hands. It’s designed to be an on-the-go accessory, something sturdy enough to be put in a backpack for daily use.
“Spark is palm-sized and it weighs less than a can of soda,” explained Michael Perry during the Spark reveal event at Grand Central Station in New York. “It’s also designed to carry with you on a daily basis, like something you put in your bag, like a pair of headphones.”
Take-off seems easy enough: You hold the drone in your hand and press the power button twice, which activates the drone. Its camera and vision system “looks” for a pilot and once it recognizes it, it automatically takes off, hovering in the air at attention.
“Within seconds, I can get the Spark in the air,” Perry demonstrated to polite applause from onlookers.
Once the drone is locked on its pilot, hand waving moves the drone left, right, up, and down. “It’s truly like magic,” Perry said.
If you wave at the drone, it flies about ten feet away and up into the air, keeping its pilot in the center of the frame.
The drone actively tracks its subject which adjusts the viewpoint of the camera. The 12-megapixel camera that shoots HD video at 30 frames-per-second is activated when drone’s user does a simple framing with their thumbs and index fingers:
DJI also announced two new shooting modes for the Spark’s camera that should be familiar to anybody with an Apple iPhone. One is a classic panoramic shot that stitches together video and the other is a “shallow focus” mode that keeps the subject in focus while blurring the background — a feature that’s also available on the iPhone 7 Plus.
There’s also a phone app called QuickShots to control the Spark that offers four different shooting modes, and based on the demo Wednesday, seems pretty vital if someone wants to get the most out of the Spark. DJI’s also offering an optional remote control and VR-styled flight goggles for the Spark.
Such a tiny drone boasts an impressive 16 minutes of flight time, the longest of a drone that size, and it does feature a micro USB port on the back for charging in the car or from a laptop. In “sport mode,” it reaches a top speed of 31 mph.
Perry explained that the drone does feature the DJI stabilizing technology and autonomous tech that include two GPS/GLONASS sensors, 3D sensing, a vision positioning system, and 24 computing cores that operate simultaneously.
“This is all fancy way of saying that spark flies stably where you want to go.”
Spark is available for pre-order today and costs $499, and will start shipping in mid-June. DJI’s also bundled up the quadcopter with accessories (extra propellors, propellor guards, batteries, a charging hub, a remote control, and a carrying case) for $699. It comes in five colors: blue, green, white, yellow, and red. DJI also offers a warranty for the little drone that could result in up to two replacement drones if disaster strikes.
And while the little Spark certainly appears more mobile than other drones DJI has released, that doesn’t mean it can fly everywhere. Perry noted it’s programmed with the internet-connected DJI Geospatial Environment program, which keeps the drone from flying over airports, wildfires, or stadiums on game day.