At an event in New York's Grand Central Station this morning, DJI launched its newest drone, the DJI Spark, with a price point of only $499. Why have the event at in New York city where you can't even legally fly a drone? One reason is to show off the intelligent flight systems of DJI, which work with both GPS and Glonass, but also have an intelligent vision system for working when GPS signal isn't available, such as when you're in the middle of Midtown Manhattan surrounded by buildings. 

The marquee feature of the drone isn't just its compact size—it's the ease of use. You can launch the drone from the palm of your hand, without using a remote, and then you can control the basic functions of the drone by waving your hands. Move your arm around to position the drone, wave to push the drone away about 10 feet, and frame up with your fingers to trigger the perfect selfie.

Dji_spark_handlaunchCredit: DJI

If you want to get more sophisticated, it works with an app on your smartphone for remote control up to 300 feet, roughly the range of standard wifi. With the optional remote control, you can control it up to 1.4 miles away, and you can also activate an optional smart mode that lets the drone fly at up to 31mph.

With the DJI Go 4 app, you can edit, add music, and share videos from the drone directly from your smart phone, making the process of telling stories with the done easier than ever before. Adding to the ease of use, they have designed 4 pre-programmed moves to make it easier to capture the action of a scene faster.

Dji_spark_family_bike_rideCredit: DJI

The spark has a 1/2.3" sensor, larger than most cell phones for better low light sensitivity, and can capture  12 megapixel stills and HD video at 30fps. It has a mechanical dual axis gimbal stabilizer, working with DJI's own stabilization tech to provide stabilized imagery.

When you want to leave a drone in your ditty bag for overheads on location scouts, the Spark is worth a peek.

One new feature is taking advantage of the 3D vision technology that DJI has had in several drones and to applying it to the images to create a shallow focus effect on the shots that accurately replicates the actual depth of the scene. Since the sensor is small, most of the footage will have a large depth of field, and using the built in vision tech for accurate shallow depth of field is a nice addition. It offers 16 minutes of flight time, and has interchangeable batteries, or you can charge on the go via micro-USB.

Dji_spark_shallowfocusCredit: DJI

This is clearly a consumer tool, but then again, so was the 5D when it launched, and indie filmmakers found a use for it. When the space is too small for even getting a Mavic through, or when you need a swarm of drones for a multi camera aerial show, or when you just want to leave a drone in your ditty bag for overheads on location scouts, the Spark is worth a peek. Spark's marketing is focused on this being the drone you always have with you, and while 1080p is likely to disappoint many filmmakers, if it lets you quickly get a drone shot you wouldn't have been able to get otherwise, 1080p won't be the end of the world. 

Dji_spark_oceanCredit: DJI

Expect to start seeing more overhead drone shots in your pre-production materials soon. It's also available in 5 different colors.

Available for pre-order now for $499.

Tech Specs:

  • 1/2.3" CMOS sensor
  • 31mph top speed in sport mode
  • 16 minute flight time
  • 1.2 mile range with optional remote control
  • Flight Autonomy and Flight Protection
  • Micro SD card
  • GPS and Glonass positioning, with visual processing backup
  • 720 30fps video transmission, 1080p video capture
  • 12 megapixel stills