Pros and Cons of the DJI Spark Drone
The DJI Spark is a powerful drone released mid-2017. Since then it has proved popular for people who want to get flying without having to pay a hefty price tag. We are here to help you determine if it’s the right purchase for you by comparing its top features against its shortcomings.
The DJI Spark can range in price from as low as $350 to as high as $550 depending on the options that you get. The base price is without the controller, which does limit functionality. For instance, the distance you can fly the drone is drastically reduced if you have to operate it with your phone and it’s less fun. Shop around to find the best price and check DJI.com and Amazon.
The Spark is a mini-drone that only weights 300g. Unlike other drone models, you won’t need a backpack to transport it. A small bag or even your pocket will do fine. If you’re going to be walking/hiking with your drone, then you won’t be weighed down. The same can be said if you’re hanging out with friends. You can keep your drone hidden in your bag or pocket and then whip it out at a moments notice to take a selfie.
Excellent Positioning Systems
The Spark makes use of both GPS and GLONASS positioning systems. This allows it to connect to a range of American and Russian satellites. Connectivity issues are rare, and the Spark can usually calculate its position to a high degree of accuracy.
The drone also comes equipped with a vision positioning system. When operating low to the ground, the Spark uses sensors (both a camera and a sonar) to accurately determine its position. This allows it to fly safely at low attitudes. Horizontal and vertical hover displacement is also minimised.
Vertical Hover Displacement:
- ±0.1 m (with Vision Positioning)
- ±0.5 m (when only using GPS/GLONASS)
Horizontal Hover Displacement:
- ±0.3 m (with vision positioning)
- ±1.5 m (when only using GPS/GLONASS)
The Spark has forward facing sensors that can detect obstacles up to 16 feet away. These sensors can detect a range of obstacles including poles, trees, chain-link fences, and mesh. This is handy when flying in crowded areas. However, the drone is limited to a top speed of around 6mph when obstacle avoidance is enabled.
Multiple Control Options
The Spark can be flown simply using hand gestures. This is a fun and convenient way to fly the drone, however, to make full use of its functions you will also want to use its controller and the DJI App.
The controller allows for much greater control, with two flight sticks and an array of dedicated and customisable buttons. It also enables the drone to enter Sport Mode where it can reach its top speed of 31mph. Lastly, and most importantly, the controller increases the operational range from 100m to 1.2miles.
To use the DJI App, you will need a smartphone or tablet. This allows you to make use of the drone’s intelligent flight modes (more about that soon). For best results, we recommend attaching your device to the mount on the controller.
A Range of Intelligent Flight Modes
The Spark has a range of intelligent flight modes which are mainly designed to help take photos and videos from a variety of angles. These can be enabled by using the DJI App.
- Rocket– This mode causes the drone to fly skywards but with its camera pointing downwards. This gives a unique perspective for taking photos and video.
- Dronie– This mode cause the drone’s camera to lock onto a target while it flies backward and forwards.
- Circle– The drone will circle a selected subject.
- Helix– This mode also causes the drone to circle a subject but with the circle radius increasing over time.
- TapFly– Tap a point on your phone or tablet, and the drone will automatically fly to that location.
The Spark is one of the cheapest drones on the market. Standalone models can be had for around $350 off Amazon. However, we recommend looking for a bundle deal that includes the controller, two batteries, and a charging hub. These go for around $600 on Amazon.
There are so many different bundle options available so just make sure you scrutinize exactly what you will end up getting.
Uses a Dated Camera
Now let’s get to the bad stuff. As far as drone cameras go the Spark’s is pretty underperforming. It can only shoot video at 1080p. While this is still considered HD, many other drone models can shoot in 2.7K and 4K.
As for still shots, the camera only has 12 megapixels. While this still allows for nice snaps, 16 or 20 megapixels would be better.
Limited Flight Time
The Spark has a rather limited battery life and in the best-case scenario can only stay airborne for 16 minutes. This is pretty short considering many other drone models can fly for 25 minutes or more. We recommend having two fully-charged batteries and swapping them so that you can get up to 32 minutes in the air.
Gets Knocked Around By Heavy Winds
Considering how tiny the Spark is, it doesn’t do too bad a job in strong breezes. Even if it does get knocked off course, it can recover quickly. However, it won’t handle the same wind speed as bigger drones such as the Phantom 4 and Inspire 2. We only recommend flying it at wind speeds of 18mph at the very maximum.
Is it the Right Drone for You?
First off, let’s compare the pros and cons side-by-side.
|Good Positioning Systems|
|Multiple Control Options|
|Intelligent Flight Modes|
|Obstacle Detection Systems|
|Short Flight Time|
|Low Wind Resistance|
Overall we reckon the Spark is a highly functional drone. It does most things pretty well, and with such a low price tag it’s perfect for those who just want to start flying. The Spark really makes an ideal first-drone purchase. Just remember, to combat the low flight time make sure you purchase two batteries rather than one.
For those serious about photography and filmmaking, simply look elsewhere. 1080p video and 12 megapixels don’t quite cut it. There are many drones with far superior cameras such as the Phantom 4 and Inspire ranges.
You will also want to consider the weather where you live. If your location is prone to high winds, then you may want to purchase a sturdier drone model.