The New DJI Spark Drone: ‘It Truly Feels Like Magic’

Today in New York City, DJI introduced its newest drone, the DJI Spark, a palm-size, $500 aircraft capable of being controlled by a user’s hand movements.

The company held its latest drone launch event in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, which offered an interesting juxtaposition of old and new: The long line to enter stretched outside the station – among many curious passersby – and then by a display of the history of Grand Central, which dates back to the 1870s. Shortly after, I was watching a drone take a picture of a man who asked it to with the motion of his arm.

Emphasizing the new aircraft’s ability to “capture life’s moments in a completely new way,” Michael Perry, DJI’s director of strategic partnerships, took the stage to unveil the Spark, the company’s “smallest, smartest and simplest drone to date.”

Like the foldable Mavic Pro, which was rolled out last fall, the new drone is “designed to go with you,” Perry explained, but serves to “capture immediate moments and tell personal stories.”

At 300 grams, weighing less than a can of soda, the new drone also comes in some pretty nifty colors in addition to DJI’s classic white – light blue, lime green, red and yellow.

Besides through hand gestures, the Spark can be operated via remote controller or mobile device, but after the user presses the power button twice, it takes off straight from his hand and goes into its famous gesture mode. From there, the user can move his palm according to which direction he wants the Spark to fly. Moreover, just wave at it, and it’ll fly further away; walk back toward it, and it’ll fly back in the user’s direction via the ActiveTrack function.

And of course, if you want a selfie, just make a square with your hands, and the camera – which can take 12-megapixel photos and shoot 1080p video – will get to work.

“It’s that simple to control, and it truly feels like magic,” Perry said as he showed off the capabilities of the Spark, which can stay in the air for up to 16 minutes.

Another flight feature is QuickShot, which will bring the drone on a preset flight path to follow the user and record a 10-second video. It also includes a new sub-mode of DJI’s TapFly function, allowing a user to tap a spot on his phone and bring the drone to that spot.

As for new camera features, the Spark’s Pano mode can snap several photos and put them together for a panoramic view, or the ShallowFocus mode will blur out the background of a photo and focus just on the subject.

If a user uses the remote controller, the drone can also be switched to sport mode, enabling up to 31 mph flights and setting the gimbal to first-person-view. On that note, the new aircraft will also be compatible with the DJI Goggles, the company says.

In terms of safety, the drone features return-to-home capabilities in the event of a low battery or GPS signal loss, DJI’s geofencing system, and a FlightAutonomy system featuring the “main camera, a downward-facing vision system, a forward-facing 3D sensing system, dual-band GPS and GLONASS, a high-precision inertial measurement unit, and 24 powerful computing cores,” DJI says in a press release.

“These features allow Spark to hover accurately with vision system assistance at up to 98 feet (30 meters) and sense obstacles from up to 16 ft (5 meters) away,” the release explains.

The company is also rolling out DJI Care Refresh for Spark, which offers one-year coverage for the drone. This includes “up to two replacements that are new or equivalent to new for a small additional charge.”

Before he revealed the price, Perry noted, “With Spark, we not only wanted to make it accessible in terms of how you use it, but accessible in the way that you buy it.”

Shipping in mid-June, the Spark is now available for pre-order for $499. This includes the drone, a battery, a USB charger and three extra pairs of propellers. For $699, users can also get an extra battery and pair of propellers, a remote controller, propeller guards, the drone’s charging hub, a shoulder bag, and other cables.

“Controlling a camera drone with hand movements alone is a major step towards making aerial technology an intuitive part of everyone’s daily life, from work and adventure to moments with friends and family,” said Paul Pan, senior product manager at DJI, in a release. “Spark’s revolutionary new interface lets you effortlessly extend your point of view to the air – making it easier than ever to capture and share the world from new perspectives.”

Throughout the event, it was no surprise people milling about Grand Central stopped what they were doing to stare in awe at the magic going on in the corner of the station.

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