DJI Spark – My New Travel Buddy

DJI SPARK – MY NEW TRAVEL BUDDY

Phantom BWB GCanyon

 

Travel, Photography, and Flight have always been prime interests.  I’ve traveled all my life, been doing serious photography forever it seems, and got my pilots license while in graduate school.  With these interests as a background it should come as no surprise that I am drawn to aerial drones and drone photography.   The photo of the Grand Canyon above shows me with my first serious drone – a DJI Phantom Vision 2+.  (Point of clarification – the drone is photoshopped into the image.  Federal regulations prohibit any drone flights within national parks.)

My Phantom, made by DJI,  is a great flier and produces great images – both stills and videos.  But it is a bit large and limits where is can easily be used.  I’ve used it a lot in and around Kansass City.  If you are curious you can check out these drone videos –

Or you can view the brief KC Phantom video below – playing around with a few cinematic and audio effects:


I’ve also taken my Phantom on some cross country road trips here in the U.S. and it worked out fairly well.  But it wasn’t terribly practical for journeys that involved  air travel or travel to foreign destinations.  Yes, there are some who have traveled the world with a Phantom or something similar. I’ve actually seen Phantoms flying in several places while I’ve been traveling such as Mandalay, Myanmar (Teak Bridge) and Kanchanaburi, Thailand (think Bridge on the River Kwai) for example. I’m glad it worked out for those travelers and photographers. And I must admit to some feelings of envy as I watched them get aerial views of some wonderful places. But as I said, the Phantom is rather large – and I like to travel light.  So in the past, when I headed out to foreign destinations my Phantom stayed home.  Aerial photography was not a part of my photographic plans for many trips.

I’m extremely pleased to report that the situation has now changed. DJI, the company which makes a wide range of drones including the Phantom line, just released a new product which is sure to become my new Travel Buddy – The DJI SPARK.

 

Spark Solo

My New  DJI Spark – Yes, I had to wait several extra weeks to get the red one – I’ve named it “Snoopy” – ala Snoopy and the Red Baron

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “good things come in small packages” – right?  Well in the case of the Spark that saying truly applies.  The Spark is much smaller than the Phantom.  For those in search of details let me offer –

Takeoff Weight 300 g
Dimensions 143×143×55 mm

For all of the Spark Specs see this web page – SPARK SPECKS

For comparison, here are some images of my Phantom and my Spark.

Phantom & controller

My Phantom and Controller

 

Spark & controller

My Spark and Controller

 

Boxes & drones

You’ll notice the size difference as soon as the box arrives!

 

Phantom & Spark sets

The Spark is much more compact than the Phantom

 

 

Spark & Phantom

Spark compact

For storage / travel the props fold in making the Spark even more compact.

The Spark has some great features which weren’t available when I first got my Phantom. For example there is obstacle avoidance and a variety of new automatic flight maneuvers.  The Spark will even operate in three different flight modes.  You can use the controller, pictured above, which allows you to attach your smart phone to see a live view from the Spark camera and gives total access to all of Sparks controls and flight features.  Flights with the controller can extend to a range of @1.5miles.  If you are willing to sacrifice a bit of distance and versatility there is also a dedicated smartphone mode.  In this mode you don’t need the controller. (In fact – the standard Spark is sold without a controller – the controller is an optional accessory.). You control the Spark with your smartphone using “virtual joysticks”.  Finally, for truly spontaneous flight – you can fly the Spark without any control device.  Using “advanced gesture control” you can actually launch the Spark from the palm of your hand and fly it through various activities using hand gestures!  Fairly cool – right!

Snoopy Red Baron

Snoopy & The Red Baron by Charles Schultz – internet image

 

Clearly, I’m excited about “Snoppy”, as I’ve named my new Spark, and I think he will be an outstanding travel buddy on my future journeys.  He’s got all kinds of potential.  Small enough to easily fit in my backpack with loads of room to spare. And he can do so many things that it is going to take me awhile to become a proficient Spark Pilot. (He comes with lots of manuals and there are tons of training videos on the DJI website.)  So I’ve got my work cut out for me. Lots of practice flights, etc.  But as I learned in my early days of flying single engine aircraft – if you want to fly then it’s import to know what you are doing and to “fly right and fly smart.” (On this note I must add that I have seen several drone pilots operating their aircraft in very irresponsible ways.  And of course the news is frequently documenting drones being flown in a dangerous and illegal manner. If you fly a drone – fly it right – please!)

I put together a quick video below using raw “footage” which is clearly a bit rough but gives an idea of how the Spark flies as well as some of the challenges getting acquainted with a new drone.


I must say that I am very pleased with the image quality of this pint-sized drone.  And yes – I clearly have some work to do before taking Snoopy to the skies for any serious video!

 

Snoopy, my new DJI Spark ……. Heading off to New Adventures!

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Full Disclosure:  I purchased the DJI Spark independently and have not been reimbursed or compensated in any way for this article.  Comments and observations are my honest impressions of the Spark. That said, I remind my faithful readers that any purchases made by “clicking through” to Amazon from this site will help support the site and will not have any impact on your purchase price.

The DJI Spark is available through Amazon at Amazon Spark

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