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First Test Flight DJI Spark

I just got a DJI Spark – just because. After owning the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air, the Spark is still impressive feat of engineering – and a reminder that drones are quite a way from being true mainstream devices. I got the drone at The Apple Store – without the controller in the box – I have on on the way, it arrives Friday [DJI Drone, UAV Spark – Remote Controller (CP.PT.000792 ) – $119.00]. The test flights out of the box were controlled on my drone dedicated iPhone 7+ using the DJI GO 4 app-which reminded me of flying my first drone, a Parrot Bebop 2. While the company threw in some control tricks that may make you feel like Luke Skywalker for the 16 minutes it’s in the air, there are still a lot of things I need to familiarize myself with – especially with the “Tap Go” – which flew the drone directly into a tree on my first flight [fortunately at a slow speed – and a low altitude – whew. See the video attached]. Once I get the controller, the Spark’s operational range increase from 100m to 1.2miles. This is pretty important if I actually want to fly this device anywhere. This will also allow the drone to hit its top speed of 31.6mph.

I think the Spark is a good candidate for those who have been eyeing a drone, but don’t have the funds or technical skill to pilot more expensive drone, my skills grew from flying a lower priced drone to where I am now. DJI knows how to build a solid quadcopter, and the Spark mostly fits that bill. The Spark weighs a full pound less than the Mavic Pro and is roughly half its size. You really can hold it in the palm of your hand. The smaller size comes with some compromises, however. The camera and the gimbal are just OK. You can’t shoot 4K video with the drone. Though, given the consumer audience the company targeted the Spark for, that’s probably not that big of a loss for most.

After flying a Mavic Pro and Mavic Air battery life for the Spark is the biggest downside. The company rates it at 16 minutes. That’s a bit more than half what the Mavic Pro can do on a charge. A USB port on the Spark lets you charge the battery by plugging a cable directly into the drone. Lesson number one; If you buy the Spark, add a second battery to your shopping cart — you’re going to need it [My extra battery arrives tomorrow; DJI Spark Intelligent Battery (CP.PT.000789) – $44.70]. Also, I how quickly this battery expires in flight. I have had the Mavic out over a half mile at 30% power, got a couple more images, and had them back on the ground with over 20% power. While I did not venture out far (about 10 feet horizontal distance) – I was surprised how quickly the battery expired [landed with with just 2% battery power – that was a near a catastrophe!].

Herein lies the rub, fully mastering this drone will take more than the 16 minutes of power I had with this first test flight – in fact it will take more than a couple of days of testing. So maybe this drone isn’t really the beginner’s product I thought it was at first. The cost is an easier pill to swallow for people who have been eyeing drone ownership for a while. And this device’s slew of different tricks will keep owners (and myself) entertained – once getting a handle on the control system.

And the band plays on…

Takeoff Weight 300 g
Max Ascent Speed 9.8 ft/s (3 m/s) in Sport Mode without wind
Max Descent Speed 9.8 ft/s (3 m/s) in Auto Landing Mode
Max Speed 31 mph (50 kph) in Sport Mode without wind
Max Service Ceiling Above Sea Level 13,123 feet (4,000 m)
Max Flight Time 16 minutes (no wind at a consistent 12.4 mph (20 kph))
Max Hovering Time 15 minutes (no wind)
Operating Temperature Range 32° to 104° F (0° to 40° C)

Sensor 1/2.3″ CMOS
Effective pixels: 12 MP
Lens FOV 81.9° 25 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.6
(shooting range: 2 m to ∞)
ISO Range Video: 100-3200
Photo: 100-1600
Electronic Shutter Speed 2-1/8000 s
Image Size 3968×2976
1440×1080 with ShallowFocus
2300×1280 with Pano (horizontal)
960×1280 with Pano (vertical)
Video Resolution FHD: 1920×1080 30p
Max Video Bitrate 24 Mbps
Supported File Systems FAT32
Photo Format JPEG
Video Format MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)

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