First Impression Geek Reviews

First Impression: The DJI Spark Mini Drone

I wasn’t planning on posting about the DJI Spark until I got to use it on my upcoming trip, but because of the amount of interest I got on it from my instagram story and twitter over the weekend, I decided I’d at least post my first impression. First full disclosure, DJI released the Spark last month and when I saw Xcite had a preorder page for it, I got in touch with them and asked them if they could send me one over to review. They couldn’t get me a Spark from their first shipment since it quickly sold out, but Thursday they got in touch with me to let me know they secured me a drone from their second shipment and I passed by and picked it up.

The DJI Spark is tiny, like super tiny. Its around the same size as my iPhone 6 and it weighs just 300 grams. But don’t let the size fool you, this isn’t an indoor drone and it’s packed with advanced features of its older brothers. I’m not going to go into too many details since there are a ton of YouTube videos that do that, but I will highlight some things in this post which I think are cool.

There are three ways to control the Spark, either with your phone, with the optional remote, or using hand gestures. The last one is a bit of a gimmick but it works and it can be useful.

Hand Gestures
The Spark has a sensor at the front that will recognize your face and then detect your hand gestures which you can use to control the drone. You wave goodbye at the drone and it will fly up and hover away from you. You want it to snap a photo of you? Just give it the correct gesture and it will take your photo. This is pretty cool because it keeps things simple for those who don’t want more out of the drone other than snapping selfies. You can watch the video above of how this works.

Using Your Phone
The Spark doesn’t come with a remote control, instead you can download an app onto your phone and use it to control the drone using wifi. This means you don’t have to carry a remote around which keeps the Spark portable. The only downside is that the Spark’s flight height is limited to 50 meters and the flight range to just 100m when using the phone due to the wifi’s limited range. The top speed is also limited to 20km/h.

Remote Control
The first thing I did after picking up the Spark was buy the optional remote control. Personally I can’t use virtual control sticks in apps, maybe I’m old fashioned but I like physical buttons and joysticks. The second reason I wanted to get the remote control was because it increases the flight height from 50m to 500m and the flight range from 100m up to 2KM. That’s a HUGE increase. With the remote control you can also put the drone into sport mode which increases the top speed to 50kmh. Really impressive specs for something so freakin tiny. I still can’t believe how high it can fly.

I spent the weekend playing around with the Spark and as a complete drone newbie, I did find the experience overwhelming at first but that’s probably because I didn’t read any instructions and just winged it. Friday morning I woke up early and headed to my favorite open area in the desert to take some photos. There was an overcast so my photos were coming out very flat and dull, but I did manage to take one photo which I added to my instagram story. Saturday morning I decided to take the drone near Scientific Center and fly it there, that was a pretty scary experience because when I told the drone to come home and land, I freaked out because I got worried it would decide to land in the sea. It did’t thankfully and instead came back down to it’s original launching point. That same afternoon I wanted to see if I could fly the drone from my hand and then have it land back in my hand when I was done, all without having to leave my car. It worked! Because the drone is so tiny you could use your palm as a launch and landing pad.

If you’re a beginner like me, the drone has a bunch of automated and smart flying modes that will make your videos look professionally shot including:

Active Track: You highlight the subject you want the Spark to follow and it will follow it
Tripod: Keeps the drone stable and slow allowing you to film cinematic shots
Rocket: Starts filming you from eye level and then flies straight up while still focusing on you
Dronie: Starts filming you from eye level and then angles out and away from you while still keeping you in focus
Circle: The Spark films you while rotating around you
Helix: Rocket + Circle combined

Battery life is my only issue with the Spark so far. The total flight time is just 16 minutes which isn’t a lot especially if you factor in the time it will take you to get to the height you want, position your drone and also the amount of time the drone needs to fly back down to you. You’re definitely gonna need more batteries and I already ordered 2 from Amazon and they’ll be waiting for me in L.A. when I get there end of the week.

Overall I love this little thing. It kinda feels like having an invisible photographer friend with you everywhere you go. When I went out to the desert to take some photos, I tried the active tracking feature and had the Spark follow my car around shooting video of it while I was driving. In the winter when I go snowboarding I could have the Spark follow me shooting video of me face planting all the way down the slope. It’s tiny and light enough to take everywhere with you which is why I’m looking forward to using it on my trip.

If you’re interested in the DJI Spark, Xcite are selling them for KD169. Here is the [Link]

41 replies on “First Impression: The DJI Spark Mini Drone”

At first glance at the first picture, I thought to myself, “what an absolutely horrendous picture to have on the box of a drone”. Then I saw the pager, then your iPhone…

Have a safe trip Mark and have fun

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Wow, she looks almost unrecognizable to me. Probably because in all of her pictures I’m not looking at her face at all…

Lots of people are losing or breaking their Sparks, simply because they assume it does not require the same attention to detail as when flying bigger drones.
1. The spark seems more prone to magnetic interference, so compass calibration before each flight is recommended.
2. It does not have sensors at the rear, so when activating smart flying modes (like dronie), one needs to be sure there are no wires or trees in its flight path.
3. Connecting the phone to the remote using an OTG cable seems to help a bit.

If the compass needs calibration a warning pops up. I had it pop up once so far, i had the drone on a concrete bench (guessing has steel rods in it) so just moved the drone to the ground and the warning went.

I also ordered the OTG cable but mostly because I want to save battery life on the phone which gets drained quite a bit when flying the drone.

Hey Mark/Cajie

“2. It does not have sensors at the rear, so when activating smart flying modes (like dronie), one needs to be sure there are no wires or trees in its flight path.”

Can you please elaborate? What if I’m jogging and the drone is 10m high, 10m back following me and there’s a cable that comes in its path?

Also Mark:
1. Are ALL those overhead shots above from your drone? If yes, looks like you already have the remote?
2. How suitable is this for a complete newbie who’s never even flown a 5kd drone before 🙂

If you’re jogging and the camera is following you and something comes in its way, then it will avoid it. What cajie is talking about is there is this option on the drone where you can select to turn and off and its basically you’re jogging, and then you turn around and decide to jog towards the drone, you can have the drone record you while backing up. But it doesn’t have sensors in the rear so if there is a tree behind it then it will hit the tree.

yes all the shots are from the drone and like i said in my post, the first thing i did is get the remote.

i’m a complete newbie who never flew a drone before and i got the hang of it pretty quickly. just don’t fly it indoors, thats the best tip i can give u.

Adding to what Mark said…
The Spark comes with some interesting “smart shots”. I referred to one called “dronie”, where the drone flies backward and upward at the same time, creating some cool effect. Same with another mode called “Helix” where it sort of moves around the subject (that’s you) in a helix shape. Good for video.
But these shots are usually with the drone moving backwards, where it cannot sense any obstacles, so if there are wires or trees, that’s the end of your drone.
Flying indoors with the Spark is surprisingly a lot of fun. And if you get the propeller guards, you can learn all your flying indoors, before attempting the outdoor flying.
When it is indoors, it uses VPS (Vision Positioning system) that uses cameras (instead of GPS) to lock into position, and the VPS on Spark is darn good.

I completely disagree with you, the worst advice you can give a newbie is fly the drone indoors. There are a number of obstacles and walls indoors and there is a limited height and limited space to maneuver in. I would HIGHLY advise against flying the spark indoors especially if they’re a newbie.

I managed to crash my drone into my window without really doing anything, the spark is unstable indoors and it tends to move around and creep quite a bit so newbies will quickly find themselves in a situation where they need to react quickly but instead panic and crash and damage the drone or propellers. luckily in my case only a small plastic piece that clips the battery to the drone broke and the battery has two of those so i’m good.

I think Mark missed the part about the pre-requisite of the propeller guards.
By default, the drone goes up exactly 1.5 meters and hovers. With the prop guards on, you can safely maneuver it around, without worrying about crashing into stuff. If it does bang into a wall or obstacle, it will just back away.
I don’t know how much drone flying you have done Mark, but I’ve been doing it for more than 3 years, and Spark is the only one where I would actually advise people to use indoors safely (remember: with prop-guards).

if you enjoyed the spark you should look into the mavic pro, imagine the spark but on cocaine. faster, smarter, more battery life, and incredible 4k cam.

i tried to land the mavic in the water and it detected that it wasnt safe to land.

obviously the downside is the size, but a small carry case works.

there are tons of roads like that in the desert, just find one using google maps and head there. the one above is around an hour – an hour fifteen minutes from where i live. nothing there really just that road which i like. there is even a nicer one but its around 30 minutes further from this location, i like the other one better cuz the road is slimmer and the sand around it is softer

Fair enough, but didn’t you receive the Spark for free since you wanted one to review? You could just do the same thing with the other drone

Clearly I was referring to the fact that you said it’s double the price. However, it sounds like the price isn’t the issue with you but the size is.

yeah that size and price, its more than double the size and double the price and for photography there really isn’t any advantage with the mavic

can’t argue when it comes to size or price, but for photography, mavic easily wins

spark 1080p mavic 4k
video bitrate 24Mbs – 60Mbs
range there is an enormous difference
height as well

none of the specs you mentioned are related to photography. 4K isn’t photography neither is the video bitrate, thats video related.

the Mavic shoots 12MP photos just like the Spark. Only difference is Mavic can save files in raw format and has a brighter lens.

The only advantage the Mavic has over the spark in terms of photography is its ability to shoot RAW. If you normally shoot JPG, then there is no difference.

Yup. They do seem affordable, but when you consider that the flying time is half of the mavic, and mavic battery costs KD 35/-, one can see why.

The desert road photo that has ‘going nowhere’ written on it, whats the name of this endless road and what province in Kuwait?

Could someone elaborate on traveling with the spark? I know different airlines have varying regulations. I called emirates and they said the spark needs to go in checked baggage (im afraid it would get damaged) and the battery needs to go in the carry on. It would be great if they both could go in the carry on, just with batteries taken out.

Still waiting for Fajer The lawyer’s post to know what are the latest laws on flying drones =D. I have to say We’re pretty lukcy to have Fajer on this blog!

Hi Mark, do you still have the DJI Spark?

If you still do, please do a followup article on how (sometimes) the BATTERY EJECTS during mid-flight on DJI Spark (and maybe others too, because of the faulty latch system manuafacturing.

And i said EJECT not fall … as in battery JUMPS out horizontally then falls …
It happened to me, RIP spark, and it happened to so many people all over the world.

Just do a google search on “SPARK BATTERY EJECT”…

I wish i knew about this problem before it happened … And i wish DJI DOES SOMETHING about it…


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