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Product Reviews

DJI Spark: Fizzle or Flame?

DJI's newest offering is good, but there are some complications

June 9, 2017

If you thought the Yuneec Breeze was compact, you'll be pleased with the size of the Spark. It's tiny.

Drew Halverson
The thing about DJI drones is that, generally, they work really damn well — there is a reason the brand has an overwhelming dominance in the consumer drone market. I’ve flown the DJI Mavic and the Phantom 4, and I was fully confident and comfortable while flying both drones.

I can’t say the same about the DJI Spark. But we’ll get to that.

The drone

The Spark is tiny and lightweight (check out details and specs here), which makes it wonderfully portable but also a little shaky in the air. Luckily, the Spark’s two-axis gimbal smooths out the shakes and twitches of the drone being blown in the wind.

I will say it again: The Spark is tiny. I knew it was small based on photos and specs, but once I saw it in person, I was shocked by how small it truly is. It’s tiny and light, yet still feels sturdy and durable. The design is nothing short of impressive, regardless of your thoughts on “selfie” drones.

In terms of the drone’s accessories, its propeller guards are wonderfully designed. The prop guards feature small clips that close around each arm of the drone, making them sturdy and stable. A relatively small detail overall, but an important safety feature nonetheless.

My friends and I all tested the Spark's palm control — to my surprise, it worked pretty well for everyone.

Leah Froats
The good

For its size and weight, the Spark takes truly amazing photos and video. There’s no reason why a casual hobbyist would ever need higher quality shots than what the Spark provides. In terms of being a “flying camera,” the Spark passes with flying colors.

Palm takeoff and landing is nice when you fly in difficult terrain — and it looks pretty cool. But there’s nothing that looks cooler than the Spark’s palm control, which actually works incredibly well. As long as you keep your movements fluid, the Spark will follow your palm with ease. Be warned: People will stop and stare when they see you doing this.

The Spark package that Drone360 received for review includes three batteries and a charging station that charges all the batteries at once. This is honestly one of my favorite things about the Spark — being able to quickly and easily charge three batteries at the same time. This time-saving charger comes with the Spark’s Fly More package, which costs $699 — slightly more than the standard $499 package.
The Spark's image quality is great for a drone of its size. And its small form factor makes it easy and discreet to fly in places where you wouldn't want to use a bigger, louder drone — like a cemetery. Leah Froats

I flew over a fence to get some aerial shots of this out-of-commission water slide, but was too worried about the Spark's connection to keep it flying for long. 

Leah Froats
The not-so-good

The palm control works great, but the other gestures are a mixed bag. Waving at the Spark to have it fly up and away and putting both arms in the air to have it return to you work about 50% of the time. The other 50% is spent in confused frustration as you alter the speed, timing, and size of your gestures.

But here is the biggest deal-breaker for me: The Wi-Fi connection that binds the Spark to your mobile device is not the strongest, so you need to keep an eye on the signal strength and fly the drone pretty close to you. I had the connection flicker when flying a few times, and had it fully disconnect twice ― which is terrifying.

The second time I lost connection with the Spark, I was standing only 5 feet away from the drone. After that, I did not feel comfortable flying the Spark more than 50 feet away. A quick Google search of other Spark reviews found that I was not alone in my connectivity struggles. It’s hard to admit, but I was pretty disappointed.

But to be fair, the Spark automatically returned to its home point each time. DJI has covered its safety bases pretty effectively.

My advice on this front would be to invest in the Spark’s controller. Do not rely on a Wi-Fi connection, unless you’re able to keep calm when the app’s screen goes grey and you lose control of your drone.

I’m still working on my flight tests, so stay tuned for a deeper review of the Spark drone in the September/October 2017 issue of Drone360 magazine.
Featured image: Drew Halverson