DRONES REVIEWS

DJI Spark: The King of Selfie Drones

DJI Spark
Albert Vugrinec
Written by Albert Vugrinec

You will agree that drones are mainstream for a while now, and that if you don’t have one, you are missing out a lot. There are a few types of drones, though, meaning that not every model is suited for everyone. But, in the last two years, a certain type of drones has hit the market and everyone is talking about them, as well as buying. We are talking about the so called Selfie Drones. Unlike the bigger, more complicated to learn to control models, selfie drones are small, portable, usually foldable, have decent cameras, and what’s most important, anyone can fly them.

However, since, the market has so many brands and models to offer (most of them coming from China), choosing one that will actually work for more than a day, and deliver videos or still shots, that actually look better than the ancient VHS videos or 0.3 MP camera stills, is more than tricky to find.

This is, however, not the case with the DJI Spark quadcopter. Unlike the most of selfie drones that are available, with pretty much the possibility of just flying some 50-70 meters away from you, and shooting shaky, blurry videos, the Spark comes with some features that can be only seen in bigger, much more expensive models.

DJI Spark drone

Image credit: Marco Verch on Flickr

A selfie drone, as the name suggests, should be great for making stills of yourself, or videos of yourself while doing some interesting activity or being in an interesting location. You should be also able to simply let the drone take off from the palm of your hand and take care of pretty much everything, while you do what you do. And, this is exactly what the Spark offers, but in Premium Quality. Not only that it will take off on its own and focus on you while it shoots a Full HD video, but it can also recognize hand gestures, meaning that you can tell it what to do by simply waving your hand or making a specific gesture. We don’t want to spill everything out right away, so we decided to split the most important things into sections and explain them more in-depth, so let’s start.

Be aware: Even though the DJI Spark is a great model that is perfect for vacation memories, the standard package includes just the drone and one battery. This means that you will have to use your smartphone as a controller, which is not that easy and demands plenty of time to master. True, it can be controlled with hand gestures, but not all flight modes and features are useable in that mode, so having a traditional RC controller is definitely a must if you want to use the full potential of this great little selfie drone.

Product Specifications:

  • Intelligent Flight Modes: Smart, reliable, and incredibly intuitive
  • QuickShotVideos with a Tap
  • High-Performance Camera; Mechanical Gimbal Stabilization; Shake-Free Shots
  • Flight Performance: Powerful Propulsion Speed and Precision Control
  • Flight Safety: Worry-free flight in the palm of your hand; Propeller guards are recommended when using these functions.
  • 2-Axis Stabilized Gimbal Camera

Check Price on Amazon

Build Specifications

As promised, now we are taking an in-depth look at all the important things that make the DJI Spark so special.

Packaging

The Spark is an RTF drone, meaning, you just need to charge the battery and it will be ready to take off. However, the basic package doesn’t include an RC controller, which is not such a bad thing because this drone can be controlled via the smartphone and hand gestures. But, if you want to have the ability to use the full potential of this drone, a transmitter is recommended.

Here is what the standard package includes:

  • Aircraft
  • 3x CW Propellers
  • 3x CCW Propellers
  • 1x Intelligent Flight Battery
  • Charger
  • Micro USB cable
  • Storage box

In case you want the RC controller, here is what you should expect if you order that option (Fly More Combo):

  • Aircraft
  • RC controller
  • 4x CW Propellers
  • 4x CCW Propellers
  • 4x Propeller guards
  • 2x Intelligent Flight Batteries
  • Charger
  • Power cable
  • Battery charging hub
  • Micro USB cable
  • Storage box
  • DJI Spark shoulder bag

With the Fly More Combo, you will significantly extend your flight range, and be able to fly in FPV, and fly longer.

Design and Durability

When it comes to Spark’s design, it’s frame is of a rigid build, and like the Mavic’s it’s gray, but comes with a colored top. Speaking of the colored top, you can actually choose the color you want (from the 5 available: White, yellow, green, blue, and red) when ordering.

Furthermore, the battery goes in the back end and it conveniently slides into the drone, while the props are quick-release, as well as folding. Also, just like with all DJI models, the motors are color marked so that you are sure which prop goes on which motor, as the props have matching colors with the motors.

DJI Spark parked

As for the “face” of the drone, you can notice that the part above the camera and the gimbal, has a dark red transparent plastic cover, which reminded us of the remotes used for TVs. This part of the drone is actually in charge for obstacle avoidance as all the visioning system sensors are placed there.

Underneath the visioning system, you will see the camera, with a 2-axis, mechanically stabilized gimbal, which means that the drone can stabilize the camera on Pitch and Tilt axis, for a clear and smooth footage.

The “belly” of the Spark comes with a small camera that and sensors, which are the part of the visioning system, and help the drone detect the ground, or the palm of your hand when landing. Speaking of landing, Spark’s landing gear includes a pair of rubber feet. One pair is located at the front end of the drone, just under and behind the camera, while the other pair of landing legs is on the back end of the battery.

There are also  two slots, positioned just above the battery, where it’s written “SPARK”, and there you can connect your drone with a PC via USB port, and plug in the MicroSD memory card in the second slot. All you have to do is flip the “SPARK” lettering door.

DJI Spark sd card slot and usb plug

Image credit: rcgeeks.co.uk

When talking about the durability of this drone, even though it is small and might seem fragile, it actually is one of DJI’s more durable models. The compact design allows it to be rather rugged, and capable of surviving falls on the ground from a few meters of height. Of course, no one can guarantee the drone will survive a crash on the hard concrete.

Camera

Now, the feature you were waiting for, the camera, right? Well, you might not be so overwhelmed when we tell you that the Spark’s camera, unlike its bigger and more expensive relatives, doesn’t shoot in 4K. But, don’t let that discourage you because, even though the max resolution is 1080p, at 30 frames per second, the camera has a 4K sensor.

DJI Spark cam

Image credit: The Everyday Dad

What does that mean? Well, it means that the camera actually uses the additional pixels for electronically stabilizing the image, plus when you add the 2-axis gimbal to the equation, you get a drone that will deliver stable footage, even in high wind and sharp maneuvering situations.

Another great feature of the Spark’s camera is that it offers a so called Shallow Focus mode, where the camera sharpens the main subject in the frame, and blurs the background, for more depth in the image. As for images, you will be able to snap crystal clear 12 MP (3,968 x 2,976 pixels) stills, which is more than enough for large print photos, if you plan on turning them into wall-hanged memories.

Battery and Flight Time

The Spark comes with a 3S, 1480 mAh Li-Po battery that is being advertised as delivering 16 minutes of flight. However, in real conditions, and based on your flying style, you will most likely get from 13 to 15 minutes, and if flown in “Sport” mode (available only when flying with the RC transmitter), that time will go down to 8 to 9 minutes, which, in our opinion, will leave you wanting for more.

DJI Inteligent Flight Battery for Spark

Image credit: Diego Almora

However, even though the flight time can be a bit longer, which we actually wish for every drone model, the fact that Spark’s battery is really “intelligent”, and that you won’t experience sudden power drops, and that it stay’s firmly locked onto the drone (unlike when some inexperienced drone “pilots” shared videos of the battery falling out mid flight, which was actually a human error because they didn’t place it properly).

Furthermore, the battery has a relatively short charging period, about 45 minutes, and, for the first time in DJI’s model history, you can recharge the battery by simply plugging in the USB wall charger and plugging in the micro USB cable into the back end of the battery while still attached to the drone. Also, this feature allows you to use a power bank when traveling or in the outdoors, but keep in mind that the battery will need more time to recharge this way.

Controller

Now, as we already mentioned, the basic Spark package doesn’t include a traditional controller, and you can use your smartphone and take control over the flight, or once in the air, use hand gestures to position the drone and snap photos. But, even though the hand gesture control make you look cool and like a Jedi, it does, however, have some limitations as the drone cannot recognize gestures if it’s far away from you, so you will be limited to some 15 to 20 meters, which is actually more than enough for cool selfies, or even panoramic selfies, where the drone will snap 3 pictures and stitch it into one, with you in the middle.

DJI Spark Selfie

Image credit: dronelife.com

If you want to get some additional features and a slightly better control range, you can use your smartphone and the DJO GO 4 app, which allows you to have a virtual joystick and real time video transition, as well as the use of some more advanced camera and flight modes.

But, the full potential of the Spark comes to play if you decide to get the traditional RC transmitter, which gives you a 2 km control and video range, and unlocks Sport mode that allows you to reach speeds of 50km/h. With this controller, which is basically the Mavic controller, you pretty much have a smaller Mavic, only limited to 2 km range, 1080p videos, and a shorter flight time. We definitely recommend getting the RC transmitter as the feeling it offers will definitely make you fall in love with this little feature-packed Selfie drone from the famous house of the DJI.

Flight Performance

When it comes to the flight performance of this drone, don’t let the size of it fool you as it packs more punch than anyone of us expected. Now, the most convenient way to fly it is with hand gesture control. For this, all you have to do is double tap the top positioned power button while holding it on the palm of your hand, facing you. This way, the drone will scan your face and memorize it, and take off from your palm.

Once in the air, you can control it by using the “universal stop” sign with your palm, and it will move as you move your hand. For moving it further or closer to you, all you have to do is wave “good buy” to it, or use the universal “come” gesture as you would for a person, and it will move away or come closer. For taking a photo, you just need to make a “frame” with your fingers, and wait for it to flash with LED’s when the photo has been taken. For telling the drone to come back home and land, you need to make a “Y” shape with your hands extended in the air, and it will automatically fly back and wait till you place your palm under it, scan it, land slowly, and turn of the motors as soon as it lands. Simple as that, and especially useful when you want to snap a few photos quickly, without using your hands.

DJI Spark flight

Now, if you want more maneuverability, more flight and camera modes, as well as a bigger range and live video feed, you need to pair the drone with your smartphone, and use the DJI GO 4 app. This way, you will have Wi-Fi connection between the drone and your phone, and access to features such as the TapFly mode, where you simply tell the drone where to go by simply tapping the screen.

However, even though the drone comes with an avoidance system and you could control it relatively nicely with the app, controlling it this way is way less precise than using the RC transmitter, and in certain cases, if you use the TapFly, if the drone “thinks” he can’t fly through a certain “tight” space, he will simply refuse to go that way. You don’t get that with the controller.

Finally, if you want to fly aggressively and have a 2 km range, you will need the RC transmitter (or simply controller). It can be bought with the Fly More combo offer, or you can buy just the controller separately. Once you pair your drone with the controller and add your phone to the equation, you will have a 720p live preview of where the drone is going, up to 2 km both video and control range, and you will be able to use the Sport mode, which allows the drone to reach the speeds of up to 50 km/h, which is much more than any other selfie drone can achieve.

DJI Spark sport mode

Image credit: Patrick Lui

Furthermore, you can manually control the angle of your camera, as well as have all the telemetry displayed on the screen of your phone, which will definitely come in handy for longer range flights when the drone is out of sight. At the end, we also need to say that regardless of the control type you choose, the drone itself is very stable in the air and especially responsive when flying it with the controller.

Value for Money and Guarantee

The DJI Spark quadcopter, the basic package that includes just the drone, will cost you around $400, while the Fly More combo, which includes two batteries, the controller, more spare props and a few other additions, is around $600. We think that investing in the Fly More combo is a good idea because you get to use the drone at its full potential, and you have two batteries, which will allow you to stay in the air longer.

DJI Spark up

As for the warranty, as the largest drone manufacturer, DJI  offers a very effective after-sales service. For example, if you receive a defective or with a manufacturing defect, from either directly from the factory or any authorized retailers, you can request a refund, but it has to be done in no more than a week.

As for the warranty itself, you will only be use it if the product hasn’t not undergone unauthorized or abnormal use and no unauthorized disassembling has been done, and you can find out more on their official support page.

Here is what the warranty service covers:

  • MC: 12 months
  • Gimbal: 6 months
  • Vision Positioning System: 6 months
  • Propulsion system: 6 months
  • Remote control: 12 months
  • Battery: 6 months
  • Charger: 6 months

The frame and the propellers are not covered under warranty due to their fragile nature as well as collision and crash exposure.

Similar Models

After getting much more familiar with everything the DJI Spark has to offer, it’s time that you get more familiar with the similar models on the market, and perhaps the Spark’s main competitors.

Zerotech Dobby Mini Selfie Pocket DroneZEROTECH DOBBY Mini Selfie Pocket Drone

The ZEROTECH Dobby is a foldable and affordable, pocket selfie drone that comes with a Full HD video ability and 13 MP stills. Like Spark, it has a GPS positioning system, but it does not have avoidance systems, nor does it have a camera stabilization gimbal.

What is interesting about this drone that it doesn’t have a controller at all, not even as an additional option. It can be controlled with a smartphone, and the dedicated app, but if you want to use the phone-tilt type control, your phone needs to have a built-in gyroscope.

It also offers gesture control and facial recognition, but not as nearly advanced and precise as the Spark’s. And, the max flight time you can get out of its battery is 9 minutes, when there’s no wind.

We are aware that this model lacks what Spark has to offer, but for the price tag it comes with, it might be a good investment if you are looking for a small, portable drone that can fit your cargo pants pocket, and be taken out when on holiday, for shooting a great vacation memory.

Yuneec Breeze Selfie DroneYuneec Breeze Flying Camera

Another selfie drone, even though it is not actually classified as one, is the Yuneec Breeze Flying Camera Drone. Like its name suggests, this drone is intended to be used as a flying camera, rather than a quadcopter which you will use for aggressive flights and maybe FPV flying. Why? Well, it can’t go over 18 km/h. It is a flying camera, and it shoots in 4K at 30 fps and stills at 13 MP, but doesn’t have image stabilization system of any sort whatsoever.

This is a drone meant for people who like filming their vacations and are not into stabilized footage that you need for professional aerial filmography. However, the drone is packed with plenty of flight assist modes such as Follow me, Journey, Selfie, Orbit, and Pilot, and you do have a 720p live video feed of your flights.

The flight time is around 15 minutes, and it does include automatic takeoff and landing features as well. So, with 4K videos, the Breeze does have an advantage over the Spark when it comes to video resolution quality, but without a gimbal, and with the top control range being just 100 meters, we believe that the Spark is a clear winner in this duel.

Hover Camera Passport Selfie DroneHover Camera Passport Self-Flying Drone

Now, the Hover Camera Passport Selfie Drone is a model that comes with a rather unusual design, but despite it’s not so charming looks, it packs plenty of useful features. For example, it offers Gesture Control, Owner Mode, 360 Spin, Auto-Follow, and a few more.

The drone is made of an enclosed carbon fiber shell, and you can feel free to grab it while in the air, without worrying that you will hurt yourself or damage the drone. Also, it is very lightweight and when folded, it is not bigger than an averaged sized book.

As for why this drone is on our list, well, for starters, when used in Owner mode and combined with Gesture mode, you literally get a flying puppy that will follow you around no matter where you go. Also, it doesn’t have a controller, but you don’t actually need it because of the autonomous flight modes. The only downside is that it will be able to follow you for 10 minutes, and that it doesn’t have a camera stabilization system.

Overview

After going through all the features and specs of the DJI Spark drone, we can safely say that when it comes to selfie drone class, even though it doesn’t shoot videos in 4K, it is highly above the rest of the competition, at least for now. It can be used without a controller, you can “order” it to do what it’s meant to by simply moving your hands in front of it, has a great image stabilization, both mechanical and electronic, and can stand neck to neck with many other, larger and more expensive drones, though when paired with the RC controller.

But, like every other drone, it has its pros and cons, and here they are:

PROS:

  • Packed with advanced features
  • Compact and light
  • Can be taken anywhere
  • Durable
  • Easy to use
  • Starting model for those who want to enter the world of aerial filmography and photography without spending a small fortune

CONS:

  • Remote controller needed to unlock its full potential
  • Flight time can be longer
  • Balanced battery charger not included in the basic offer

So, as you see, the cons are not real deal breakers in this case, and the pros are as if we are talking about a much more serious aerial filming platform.

DJI Spark: The King of Selfie Drones

So, what do you think? Is this the perfect drone for you? Do you have experience with it? Whatever it is, we would love to hear what you have to say in the comment section below!

About the author

Albert Vugrinec

Albert Vugrinec

Albert is our Go-To-Guy when it comes to testing RTF UAV models. After being a professional cameraman and a photographer for 15 years, and working with various TV stations and production companies, Albert got interested in aerial filming. In the last few years, after getting his drone pilot license, he had tested and filmed with numerous aerial filming platforms. In his free time, he loves to travel with his family and to teach his kids to fly drones, or he takes them on a ride FPV style.