DJI brings gesture control to consumer drones with the diminutive Spark

By AUVSI News posted 30 days ago


There’s no excuse for boring home videos anymore, as long as you have $499 to pony up for DJI’s latest consumer drone, the hand-launched, gesture-controlled Spark.

DJI unveiled the highly anticipated Spark at a “Seize the Moment” event at New York City’s Grand Central Station.

Michael Perry, director of strategic partnerships for the company, said Spark is controlled “by the simplest control interface we could think of, and it’s not your phone.”

It is, instead, your palm. An operator can direct the drones up-and-down and side-to-side motion using an outstretched palm, direct the aircraft to land by waving both hands, and even snap a selfie by making a box-shaped motion with their fingers.

“It’s that simple to control, and it totally feels like magic,” Perry said.

Other consumer drones have also featured gesture control, but sometimes require external hardware to do it, or cost considerably more than the Spark.

DJI’s app allows the Spark to conduct a series of complicated flight patterns, such as flying in a spiral while keeping the camera trained on its subject, or looking down while zooming up. Using the Quick Shots command, it flies for a minute and then edits the resulting footage down to a 10-second clip suitable for sharing.

Spark flies at speeds up to 31mph for up to 16 minutes of flight time, features quick-swap batteries and can also be charged via a mini-USB port. Its onboard processing includes obstacle avoidance and DJI’s geofencing system that keeps users from flying where they shouldn’t. 

The Spark weighs just over the cutoff requiring registration of the vehicle with the Federal Aviation Administration, although a federal court has just ruled that registration doesn’t apply to hobbyist drones.

Blogger Julien Solomita also took the stage to share his experience using the Spark as a beta tester, including filming indoor footage of his jujitsu practice. He also taught his mother to control the drone in less than a minute by using hand gestures.

“Flying a drone, today, just became a whole lot less intimidating for a lot of people,” he said.

Pre-orders for Spark begin today at $499, or $699 with an accessories kit, with shipments expected in June.

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A DJI employee demonstrates gesture control of the new Spark consumer drone.

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