The first time I got the DJI Spark in my hands was back in June. Since then I have flown the Spark mini-drone on numerous occasions, at many different locations, and in varying conditions. To say that I like the Mavic Pro’s smaller brother is an understatement.
I simply love the Spark. Yes, I wish it had 4K video, a real 3-axis gimbal, and a longer flight time. But the way the Spark flies when you put it in sports mode (fast and agile) and the fun that you can have with it, make up for its shortcomings. As they say, the best drone you have is the one that is with you. The Spark has joined me on many trips, where I simply would not have bothered to take the bigger and heavier Mavic Pro. As you probably can tell, the DJI Spark is one of my favorite drones!
With that out of the way, I owe you a full review of the DJI Spark mini-drone, so here we go.
The Spark mini-drone reviewed. Size matters
The number one thing that makes the DJI Spark mini-drone such an appealing aircraft is its small size and lack of weight (mass). It makes the drone nimble, fast, and agile. This means that it is super fun to fly and you can easily take it with you everywhere you go.
The Spark measures 143 x 143 x 55 mm and only weighs 0.66 pounds, which is almost less than the lower weight limit of the reinstated FAA registration requirements. Maybe DJI can shave some additional weight off the Spark 2 whenever that comes out? Hint, hint.
Compared to DJI’s larger drones, the Spark is very small and light. Even the DJI Mavic Pro (1.62 lbs), which is considered to be a small and lightweight drone (ask any GoPro Karma owner), is a gentle giant compared to the Spark.
The Spark is available in various colors: Alpine White, Meadow Green, Sunrise Yellow, Sky Blue and Lava Red.
The DJI Mavic Pro and Spark drones side-by-side.
The Spark is easy to fly, thanks to DJI’s software and firmware updates. However, at the launch of the mini-drone earlier this year, some people reported having issues where they would lose control of the unmanned aircraft. I experienced this as well, but only when I was flying the drone with the controller and my iPhone 7 Plus. At times, the live-view on the iPhone 7 Plus did not work well and sometimes I would lose control of the drone for a moment. These issues went away as soon as I switched to an iPhone 6 and now with my iPhone X, I have not had any issues at all. It seems that the firmware and software updates DJI released have resolved this.
The way the Spark flies
The Spark is much less intrusive than the larger and louder drones such as the Phantom Series and the Mavic Pro. This means that you will be able to fly it more often and in more locations without attracting unwanted attention or disturbing people. The four motors are powerful and in sports mode, bring the Spark up to 31 mph (or 50 kph) in no-time. The Spark can withstand wind speeds of up to 18 mph (28 kph), so even on windy days, you can still go flying.
As I mentioned earlier, the lack of weight and the small size of the Spark make the drone fast, agile, and above all fun to fly. The Spark can be flown for up to 16 minutes in regular and sports mode. A toggle on the controller allows you to choose between the two modes. You can also fly the Spark directly from your smartphone. Flying the drone with the controller allows the Spark to fly faster and further (up to 1.2 miles). This is how I flew the drone 90% of the time.
The DJI Spark in sports mode leans forward as it speeds towards you.
Intelligent Flight Modes
Chinese drone manufacturer, DJI, packed the Spark with all the Intelligent Flight Modes you could wish for.
PalmLaunch and PalmControl. Spark can take off and land in the palm of your hand (watch out for your fingers!) and you can control it with your hands. Various hand gestures can make the Spark take selfies (dronies), fly closer, move away or follow your hand sideways. Furthermore, DJI added video features that allow you to take smooth professional video footage, such as Rocket, where the Spark ascends with the camera pointed downwards. Dronie, where the drone flies backward and upward with the camera locked at your subject. Circle, this is where the drone circles the subject while keeping the subject in focus. And lastly, Helix mode, where the drone flies upwards while spiraling away from you. These Intelligent Flight Modes make it easy to capture professional looking video footage.
In addition to these modes, DJI also added other features to make drone flying easy. Starting with TapFly, this mode allows you to tap on your smartphone screen and simply send the drone to that location while maintaining altitude. And, Activetrack, the software recognizes objects on the screen of your smartphone and the drone will keep following the subject. With this option, you can have the drone video you while following you at the same time.
The DJI Spark comes with a number of safety features. DJI recently introduced the DJI Knowledge Quiz. This quiz contains a number of questions that need to be answered correctly before you can fly your drone. On forums, some people have said that this is unnecessary and cumbersome, but with the increase in drone incidents, it makes sense for DJI to educate its amateur drone pilots. When you fly a drone, even a small one like the Spark, the FAA still expects you to know where and when you can fly your unmanned aerial vehicle safely.
Some time ago, DJI added Geo-fencing to its drones. Through GPS, the Spark knows where it is and whether it is allowed to fly in that location. This will help to make sure you are not flying near an airport for instance. Please do not rely solely on DJI’s geo-fencing, but use sites like KnowBeforeYouFly or Airmap to make sure you are ok to launch your drone at a certain location.
Another safety feature added by DJI is Awareness and obstacle avoidance. The DJI Spark is equipped with a GPS and a 3D sensing system which will help you avoid obstacles. The sensors are located at the front and bottom of the aircraft and will not help you when you are flying backward. They are also turned off in sports mode.
Lastly, the DJI FlightAutonomy system, which includes the camera, sensors, and GPS make the Spark very stable and easy to control while flying. If at some point you lose control or the batteries run low, the drone will automatically return home. This feature can also be manually activated at any point during your flight.
The DJI Spark drone with propeller guards installed.
Photo and video
The photo and video capabilities of the Spark are good but spectacularly great. It has a 2-axis mechanical gimbal and DJI’s UltraSmooth technology helps to keep your photos sharp and your videos smooth. It works really well in my experience. The camera has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor that allows you to shoot 12 MP photos and 1080p video footage. It has a wide-angle f/2.6 lens with a 25mm full-frame equivalent field-of-view. DJI has introduced special shooting modes that allow you to take Pano-Sphere and Pano-180-degree photos. The photos below were all taken with the DJI Spark and were edited in Adobe Lightroom.
Accessories for the Spark
There are many accessories available for the Spark mini-drone. I bought the Spark Fly More Combo for $699 but you can get the Combo for $599 now. The combo gets you: the prop guards, spare propellers, the remote controller, a battery charging hub for up to 3 batteries, an extra battery, and a shoulder bag.
If you plan on flying a lot, I would recommend buying additional batteries to increase your flight time. Each battery allows you to fly up to 16 minutes, which is over before you know it. I would also recommend the controller as it enables you to fly the Spark faster and further and with much greater precision. Flying from your smartphone is quick and easy, but doesn’t compare.
I would also recommend the Spark Portable Charging Station if you plan to fly often while being out and about. If you fly indoors or if the Spark is a gift for a child or first-time drone pilot, maybe consider the propeller guards to keep fingers safe.
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the DJI Goggles for an immersive first-person flying experience. Not necessary to enjoy the Spark, but it does open up a whole new world.
Pros and cons of the Spark
- Small & Lightweight
- Many different intelligent flight modes
- Obstacle avoidance
- Easy to fly and great in-air handling
- No 4K video
- Reduced flight time (16 minutes)
- Only two-axis gimbal
- Limited flight range compared to Mavic Pro and Phantom
The DJI Spark compared to the Mavic and Phantom
The biggest differences between the Spark and its bigger brothers are price, reduced size, reduced weight and lack of 4K video recording.
After having flown the Spark for 6 months, my conclusion hasn’t changed much from what I wrote in my first impression article.
The DJI Spark is a great drone for people just getting into flying drones as it is affordable and easy to fly. It is also a great drone for people who value portability above everything else. This little guy you can take anywhere, anytime which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. However if range, video quality, and battery life or flight time are important to you, you will be better served with either the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 or Inspire series.
The only thing I would emphasize is that the Spark has always been the drone that I would take with me anywhere. I didn’t do that with my Mavic Pro. The Spark’s portability and fun factor are key. I also used the Spark drone to introduce other people and kids to drone-flying. The small Spark is less intimidating and it so easy to fly that almost everyone gets the hang of it really fast. Currently, there are many great deals to be had on the DJI Spark mini-drone. You can pick one up from DJI directly or use the deals from our colleagues at 9to5Toys for absolute rock bottom prices. Btw – 9to5Toys announced the DJI Spark mini-drone product of the year.
Buy from DJI directly:
- Spark Alpine white for $399 (reg $499)
- Spark Fly More Combo (Alpine White) for $599 (reg $853)
- Spark Alpine White $ Remote Controller for $499 (reg $648)
- Limited Spark (Alpine White) & Accessories Combo for $418 (reg $549)
- Limited Spark Fly More Combo (Alpine White) & Accessories Combo for $618 (reg $749)
Click here to go to the DJI online store.
|Takeoff Weight||300 g|
|Diagonal Distance (propellers excluded)||170 mm|
|Max Ascent Speed||9.8 ft/s (3 m/s) in Sport Mode without wind|
|Max Descent Speed||9.8 ft/s (3 m/s) in Auto Landing Mode|
|Max Speed||31 mph (50 kph) in Sport Mode without wind|
|Max Service Ceiling Above Sea Level||13,123 feet (4,000 m)|
|Max Flight Time||16 minutes (no wind at a consistent 12.4 mph (20 kph))|
|Max Hovering Time||15 minutes (no wind)|
|Operating Temperature Range||32° to 104° F (0° to 40° C)|
|Satellite Positioning Systems||GPS/GLONASS|
|Hover Accuracy Range||Vertical: +/- 0.1 m (when Vision Positioning is active) or +/-0.5 m Horizontal: +/- 0.3 m (when Vision Positioning is active) or +/-1.5 m|
|Transmitter Power (EIRP)||2.4 GHz FCC: 25 dBm; CE: 18 dBm; SRRC: 18 dBm; MIC:18 dBm 5.8 GHz FCC: 27 dBm; CE: 14 dBm; SRRC: 27 dBm; MIC: –|
|Operating Frequency||2.400 – 2.483 GHz; 5.725 – 5.825 GHz|
3D SENSING SYSTEM
|Obstacle Sensing Range||1-16 ft (0.2 – 5 m)|
|Operating Environment||Detects diffuse reflective surfaces (>20%) larger than 20×20 cm (walls, trees, people, etc.)|
|Sensor||1/2.3″ CMOS Effective pixels: 12 MP|
|Lens||FOV 81.9° 25 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.6 (shooting range: 2 m to ∞)|
|ISO Range||Video: 100-3200 Photo: 100-1600|
|Electronic Shutter Speed||2-1/8000 s|
|Image Size||3968×2976 1440×1080 with ShallowFocus 2300×1280 with Pano (horizontal) 960×1280 with Pano (vertical)|
|Still Photography Modes||Single Shot Burst Shooting: 3 frames Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3 bracketed frames at 0.7 EV bias Interval: 2/3/5/7/10/15/20/30/60 s|
|Video Resolution||FHD: 1920×1080 30p|
|Max Video Bitrate||24 Mbps|
|Supported File Systems||FAT32|
|Video Format||MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)|
|Operating Frequency||2.412-2.462 GHz; 5.745-5.825 GHz|
|Max Transmission Distance||2.412 – 2.462 GHz (unobstructed, free of interference) FCC: 1.2 mi (2 km); CE: 0.3 mi (500 m) SRRC: 0.3 mi (500 m); MIC: 0.3 mi (500 m) 5.745 – 5.825 GHz (unobstructed, free of interference) FCC: 1.2 mi (2 km); CE: 0.18 mi (300 m) SRRC: 0.7 mi (1.2 km); MIC: –|
|Operating Temperature Range||32° to 104° F (0° to 40° C)|
|Transmitter Power (EIRP)||2.4 GHz FCC: ≤26 dBm; CE: ≤18 dBm; SRCC: ≤18 dBm; MIC: ≤18 dBm 5.8 GHz FCC: ≤28 dBm; CE: ≤14 dBm; SRCC: ≤26 dBm; MIC: –|
|Operating Current/Voltage||950 mAh @3.7 V|
|Supported Mobile Device Size||Thickness range: 6.5-8.5 mm Max length: 160 mm|
INTELLIGENT FLIGHT BATTERY
|Max Charging Voltage||13.05 V|
|Battery Type||LiPo 3S|
|Net Weight||Approx. 0.2 lbs (95 g)|
|Charging Temperature Range||41° to 104° F (5° to 40° C)|
|Controllable Range||Pitch: -85° to 0°|
|Stabilization||2-axis mechanical (pitch, roll)|
|Velocity Range||≤22.4 mph (36 kph) at 6.6 ft (2 m) above ground|
|Altitude Range||0-26 ft (0 – 8 m)|
|Operating Range||0-98 ft (0 – 30 m)|
|Operating Environment||Detects clearly patterned surfaces with adequate lighting (lux>15) and diffuse reflectivity (>20%)|
|Operating Frequency||2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz|
|Max Transmission Distance||100 m(Distance), 50 m(Height) (Unobstructed, free of interference)|
|Input||100-240 V; 50/60 Hz; 0.5 A|
|Output||5 V/3 A; 9 V/2 A; 12 V/1.5 A|
RECOMMENDED MICRO SD CARDS
|Model||Sandisk 16/32 GB UHS-1 Micro SDHC Kingston 16/32 GB UHS-1 Micro SDHC Samsung 16/32 GB UHS-I Micro SDHC Sandisk 64 GB UHS-1 Micro SDXC Kingston 64 GB UHS-1 Micro SDXC Samsung 64 GB UHS-I Micro SDXC|
DJI Spark Gallery
DJI Care Refresh
Tip: when buying a new drone from DJI, check out their DJI Care Refresh program. It allows you to request up to two replacements within the 12 months that your plan is valid. Doing so will require you to pay another fee at the time of request but it is still a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new drone. For instance, when you buy a DJI Mavic 2, you can purchase DJI Care Refresh for an additional $139. If you happen to damage (see terms) your drone, you can request a replacement. For the Mavic 2, the first replacement would cost you $119 and the second $139. It provides you peace of mind when you’re flying and as you can imagine, DJI Care Refresh has been very popular.
We are going to give away this exact DJI Spark drone to one of our readers. If you are interested, then leave a comment, or follow us and share this post on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. We will give it away in the first week of the new year. Only people living in one of the 48 Contiguous United States will be eligible. The lucky recipient will be selected at our discretion.