New DJI mini-drone can fly with hand gestures
Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham
LOS ANGELES – Flying a drone can be hard, with lots to learn.
Drone manufacturer DJI showed a new way to do it Wednesday, with a new mini-drone that can be flown via hand gestures.
Wave your hands to land it, or use other gestures to go higher or soar.
The DJI Spark, available in June for $499, was debuted at a media event in New York, where everything DJI said it could do worked flawlessly. In one taped demo, a woman moved her hand from left to right to push the drone in those directions, and in another we saw hands go upward to inch the drone into the skies.
These gestures are a huge change from how drones are currently flown. They generally connect to remote controllers that usually use smartphones as monitors, and the operators run the drone like a video game, with joysticks that tell the drone where to go. Most drones cost a good deal more as well — the best-selling DJI Mavic Pro sells for $999.
With the gestures, the Spark can only fly within 10 feet — the idea is to use the tiny drone, which weighs less than a can of soda, per DJI, for things like selfies and group shots, from above. Ditching the hands and using the DJI Go app on a smartphone, the Spark can fly up to 100 yards away, and with a remote control (which along with a carrying case and extra battery brings the total cost to $699) you can fly the Spark up to 1.24 miles away.
By comparison, the Mavic Pro can fly up to 4 miles. But it also costs twice as much. Battery life is 16 minutes on a charge, compared to 20 for the Mavic Pro.
Feature wise, the Spark has an image sensor slightly larger than a cellphone camera, can shoot up 1080p HD video and 12 megapixel photos. It has a 2 axis gimbal stabilizer, which means it shouldn’t be as steady as the 3-axis gimbal on the Mavic Pro, but DJI said it had built-in software to further steady the image.
The point of the demo was to show how anyone can finally master flying a drone, without having to worry about mastering flight operations or crashing. DJI suggested the Spark could be everyone’s drone in a purse or backpack, with a size so small (143x143x55mm) that anyone would tote it around.