The Spark is about the size of a can of soda and costs $499.
DJI, the world’s biggest drone company, has a tiny new drone called the Spark. It’s the most affordable, accessible drone yet from the Chinese drone maker, costing $499.
The Spark weighs only half a pound and is about the size of a can of soda. It’s designed to be carried for daily, spontaneous use, like in a backpack. And unlike DJI’s other drones, which are piloted via a smartphone or a separate controller, the Spark uses gesture recognition, meaning it moves in the direction you wave your hand, making it super easy to position in front of you.
The Spark can even land using gesture control, as was demonstrated in an unveiling event today when the presenter landed the small drone on his palm. The Sparks flies at about 31 miles per hour.
The new drone comes only seven months after DJI released its foldable Mavic Pro, an extremely accessible, no-experience-necessary drone that has become popular among new drone adopters and seasoned operators alike. But at $999, the Mavic is still a big investment for people who are new to drones and just flying for fun.
DJI’s move to introduce a small, more affordable camera drone follows reports that Snapchat has been exploring building a drone that would presumably also be ideal for selfies and social media sharing. But beyond short reports about the possibility of a Snap drone, there has yet to be any strong indicator that the company will have an aircraft to show off anytime soon.
Like other consumer drones, the Spark has a short flight time. It only flies for 16 minutes before needing to swap batteries or be recharged (though its batteries can be recharged with a micro USB on the go). The larger Mavic can fly for 27 minutes and GoPro’s Karma clocks about 20 minutes of flight time.
But short flying time hasn’t stopped people from buying new drones, and analysts predict the market will only continue to grow. The analyist firm Gartner estimates that this year the global personal drone market will be valued at $2.8 billion.
And by the Federal Aviation Administration’s own count, in the past 18 months over 820,000 people have registered to fly their drone in the U.S. Though the FAA’s drone registration numbers have served as a helpful indicator of the rising popularity of drone technology, as of Friday new drone owners flying for non-commercial purposes, like for recreation or hobbyist photography, no longer need to register their new drone with the FAA. A federal court ruled last week that the agency’s registration requirement was a violation of a law prohibiting the regulation of model aircraft.
For its part, DJI supported the FAA’s registration requirement. It said over the weekend that all international DJI drone owners will have to activate their drone with the company in order to have full flight capabilities. DJI says this registration requirement will help ensure that drone users have the correct firmware updates, which may include safety features like geofencing to keep the drone from flying in restricted airspace.
The Spark also comes with all kinds of video and image capturing features that edit small, shareable video clips with filters that can be posted to social media immediately. The drone takes 12-megapixel photos and shoots in 1080p HD stabilized video.
It comes in five colors: Alpine White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Lava Red and Sunrise Yellow.
Spark is available for sale now on DJI’s website and has an estimated ship date of June 15.
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