DJI SparkDJI Spark – The Best Portable Drone For Capturing Your Ride Memories ?

I shot the Kitchen Creek Road Ride Along Video with the Parrot Bebop 2. While the Bebop 2 provided a good overall package, I experienced repeated battery life issues within the first 6 months of use. (The battery life diminished significantly likely due to heat from use and storage with subsequent charges from the initial 20 minute+ flight time out of the box). In comes the DJI Spark…

The replacement, and really the upgrade to the DJI Spark has been a big step up in comparison to the dated Bebop 2.

First Impressions

First impressions are that compared to the Bebop 2, both the hardware, software, and connectivity (to my iOS device) of the Spark far exceed that of the Bebop 2. Keep in mind that both of these units run for $499. Whereas the Bebop 2 was more focused on the flying experience and the fun of flying, the Spark is more akin to its big brother, the Mavic Pro in terms of overall flight experience and feel. The Spark is very stable, predictable, and controlled (even in windy conditions) while in flight. I would even go as far as saying that when compared to the Bebop 2 flight experience, that it felt a bit boring given how polished and fine-tuned the flight system, of the Spark really is. (The voice feedback from the iOS device Spark flight console software is a nice touch and makes for a cool in flight experience).

Picture and Video Quality

All of this results in some great looking video, especially when compared to the Bebop 2. The two-axis gimbal (for pitch and roll) and 1080p camera of the Spark far exceed that of the Bebop 2 (which uses software to stabilize and improve image quality). The image and video quality on the Spark are excellent, even in low light conditions. I think one would be hard pressed to differentiate footage from the Pro and the Spark on anything other than a 4K television screen.

Here are a few pics from the Spark taken at night and in low light conditions:

DJI Spark Picture Taken in Low Light Conditions

DJI Spark Photo

Connectivity and Range

The connectivity, auto track, and return to home features are also much more precise on the Spark than compared to the Bebop 2. The sensors on the front and bottom (image sensor) are so much better than the latter that you almost cannot compare the two. The latter relied on GPS for return to home which is only accurate to around 50 feet (it does however have a hover mode which seemed to work reliably and consistently when returning to home). And without a sensor on the front and bottom of the device, it made for some exciting and unpredictable return to home experiences.

Answers to 7 Burning Questions About the DJI Spark

I’m super amped to send more cycling vids your way with this new quadcopter equipment. But first, here are answers to 7 burning questions about the DJI Spark!

1. How Small Is It? Will it Fit In My Jersey Pocket?

The DJI Spark is smaller that you expect. Much smaller. For it’s capabilities and technology, it looks toy-like given it’s small footprint. It is practically pocket sized. Next to the Mavic Pro, it looks and feels like what a kid’s tricycle would be next to a full-sized adult bicycle. It’s that small.

DJI Spark

Despite, this, the construction and quad motor design share many similarities to the Mavic Pro in terms of build quality and construction.

It’s small, but it’s not quite small enough to slip into a standard three slot jersey pocket. The rotor arms do not fold and there is still a sense that the rotors could get damaged if not transported in the protective case that the Spark comes with.

I’m going to have to look for another transporting solution for use when cycling!

2. How Is the Battery Life?

Battery life is stated at 16 minutes. It is long enough to fly around in close proximity but may start to feel limited when covering longer distances. The low battery warning comes on at around 15% charge remaining. As a result the last few minutes of flight seem truncated as the warning indicator turns your thoughts to landing in one piece on dry land.

I have a second battery that requires a firmware update. At the moment, it appears that the firmware can only be completed using a PC with the DJI Personal Assistant 2. (The Mac OS X version of the Personal Assistant has been difficult to track down and pilots attempting the update do not appear to have been successful on Macs).

Another plus about the DJI Spark that is worth mentioning is the ability to charge the Spark via a portable battery, the micro USB charging cord and USB charging port on the Spark. This is a huge advantage when on the go (in the bag or in the car) that the Spark has over the larger Mavic Pro.

3. What Does the $499 Drone Only Version Come With (Does It Include Memory)?

The $499 package comes with the Drone, a USB Charger, two extra propellers, and one battery. It ships in a smartly designed high quality styrofoam case that can be used to transport the Spark.

The $499 Spark does not ship with memory. It supports up to 64G of microSD. (Which I conveniently removed from my GoPro Hero 4 to insert and use in the Spark). As a note, when connected to the Spark, all of the photos and videos on the Spark can be accessed and edited from your mobile device. The Spark needs to be turned on and connected (essentially in ready for flight mode) to access the media stored on the Spark.

4. Is It Compatible with the Mavic Pro Controller?

No. This is a bummer since the controllers appear to be similar. However, the two are not compatible. This will be on my wish list as I am looking forward to achieving some extra range while in flight. Keep in mind that the battery life on the Spark will likely be the gating factor on usefulness over longer distances.

5. Is the Bundle for an Extra $200 Worth It?

The DJI Spark Combo Pack retails for $699 and seems like the way to go if you plan on buying all the accessories regardless. The price differential is equal to the price of the controller ($150 ) and spare battery ($50) alone. So the extra cases, rotors, rotor guards, and triple battery charger are essentially free. As good of a deal as this is, the reality is that you probably won’t end up using all the extras aside from the controller, battery and battery charger. Nice to have, though, your money may be better spent elsewhere on day one. At $799 plus tax you are running into base Mavic Pro territory which bring us to our next burning question…

6. Should I Buy The DJI Spark Instead of the Mavic Pro?

That depends. Having flown and used the Mavic Pro, the larger form factor feels more like even more of an event every time you fire it up when compared to the Spark. It truly does feel like an aircraft carrier next a fighter jet in terms of relative size difference. I am fairly certain that the 4K features on the Mavic Pro are lost on most enthusiasts and hobbyists. If your goal is to shoot professional grade videos at 4K resolution with intended viewing on large 4K flat screens, then the Mavic Pro is the easy choice. However, I am not convinced that this is most DJI owners. (“Riveting” high altitude images moving slowly on a large flat screen over the holidays anyone?)

Instead, I believe where most of us fall would be in the first time or entry level drone pilots category. And even if this is not the case, I don’t see why everyone, novice or professional alike would not want the portability and accessibility of the Spark. They say that the best camera is the one that you always carry with you, and this is indeed true for the Sparkle in comparison to the Pro. Plus, there’s something to said about less stress when it comes to sending $500 bucks into the wild blue yonder compared to $999 bucks. In this regard, the Spark does almost feel toy-like given it’s relatively small size and flashing lights. However, as mentioned before, the image and video quality that comes from this thing is anything but.

7. How Are the Controls From (iOS) iPhone?

The controls from the iPhone are rock solid. After the first few test runs, I did not experience any glitching, delays or connectivity between the phone and the Spark. The video feed was also very consistent with no signs of lag or delayed video. In the rare instances where connectivity was lost, the Spark quickly re-established connection within a few seconds. The DJI Spark Controller is definitely on the wish list in terms of upgrades to pick up in the weeks ahead. Otherwise, the phone controls are more than sufficient for close proximity flying.

I have yet to try the gesture controls which I may try at some point. However, my primary use and focus is to capture footage and the gesture controls do not seem as useful or interesting to me as of now. I may provide some additional footage once I’ve got it mastered from atop two wheels though!

Live Footage from the DJI Spark (First Run on the Las Vegas Strip)

To See Live Footage from the DJI Spark in Action on the Vegas Strip, click HERE.

 

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