China innovators

DJI’s newest drone, the Spark, fits in the palm of your hand

The US$499 camera model can be controlled by hand movements as the company aims to attract buyers of recreational drones through ease of use

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 5:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 7:55am

SZ DJI Technology Co., one of the world’s biggest recreational drone producers, unveiled a US$499 camera model that can be controlled by hand movements as the company aims to attract drone consumers through ease of use.

Weighing less than a can of soda, DJI’s Spark drone can take off and land from the palm of an operator’s hand, and can also be operated with a remote controller or a mobile device, DJI said in an announcement.

Preset flight sequences such as circling and spiralling shots help to make Spark easier for the novice drone pilot.

Leveraging technology built into other DJI products, Spark can recognise and track a subject as it flies, fly to a designated location selected on a mobile device, return to its operator and avoid obstacles.

The latter capability is important for further growth of the market for recreational drones, which is dominated by Shenzhen-based DJI, California’s GoPro Inc., France’s Parrot Drones SAS and Beijing-based Xiaomi Corp.

“Evolvement of new innovative technologies, such as collision avoidance and geo-fencing, that make flying drones safer have led to increased adoption of consumer drones across the global industry,” Grand View Research Inc. said in a report last year.

DJI sales hit by tighter Chinese government regulations on drone flight safety

On May 16, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) introduced a real-name registration policy for drone owners after more than 240 airline flights were disrupted by drones flying near Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in April.

The real-name rule, which specifically targets drones weighing over 250g, covers nearly all DJI products including its popular Phantom and Mavic models. Spark weighs 300g, according to today’s announcement.

Other capabilities and peripherals include multiple shooting modes and compatibility with DJI Goggles for an immersive flight experience. Spark’s camera has a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor that shoots 12 megapixel photos and stabilised HD 1080p videos, and allows for 720p live video transmissions.