DJI Spark First Impressions? Trouble In Paradise or Awesome Selfie Drone?

by planetMitch1 Comment

So, what are the first impressions of the DJI Spark around the world? Does it work as advertised?

Well, it appears to be a rockstar and a target for sea gulls and maybe not a rockstar.

For me? Well, I decided that when my vacation was cancelled that I didn't really need the distraction of trying to learn to fly a drone and I don't have that much need for one so before they shipped, I cancelled my order – so I don't have one to test.

But these incidents aren't looking as optimistic as I'd hoped.

What's your experience with the DJI Spark?

From what I can see, it has some great features and works well with the controller, but maybe not so much with the hand gestures? What's your testing show?

Tony and Chelsea Northrup testing:

Tony just added this note to his video:

READ THIS BEFORE COMMENTING: First, read the note at the end of the video. Our production team has two FAA-certified UAS pilots, and I personally have been flying various types of remote control aircraft for more than 15 years. DJI Spark gestures aren't intended for serious pilots like me; they're intended to bring aerial photography to a younger, less technical, more casual crowd. I'm really glad DJI is doing this. Drones shouldn't just be for geeks. That's why I brought in two teenagers, neither experienced drone pilots, to test it… they're the target audience. I did my best to guide them through the controls, because their generation doesn't “RTFM”… nor would they know what RTFM even means, because that's a term used only by 40+ year-old geeks.
But the first generation of gestures doesn't accomplish the goal of simplifying the control of drones. As we point out at the end of the video, gestures will work under specific circumstances, especially if the pilot is particularly precise and has memorized the meanings of the differently-colored blinking lights. And gestures did work much of the time for them, as we showed. And they had fun with it. But the current implementation of the user interface is FAR from intuitive; if something isn't working, you need to have previously memorized what the colored lights mean, and how to rectify the situation. You need to have memorized and practiced precise hand and arm movements, rather than just remembering to “wave”.
Currently, gestures require the user to think like a computer… but that defeats the purpose of gestures. Gestures as a user interface are how computers think like people. We all use gestures every day with our smartphones, and it's never a problem. If for some reason a gesture doesn't work, you get immediate feedback from the screen. All the gestures are natural, human movements, and they have a huge margin for error.
DJI's gestures need to be as intuitive as smartphone gestures if the target audience is going to use them successfully. Right now, they're not. We look forward to firmware updates and to the day when casual users can enjoy aerial photography. Until then, we'll stick with the smartphone and remote controller interfaces.

The DJI Spark Seagull attack:


Great overview with pros and cons

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. I will never buy another DJI product no matter what they say it can do. This is because of the mandatory firmware update they just forced on all of us. “coincidentally”, the day after the FAA lost its court case and can no longer require us to register our drones and have an identifier number written inside the battery compartment, we have to give DJI all of our identifying info and then install firmware in the drone.

    If this wasn’t bad enough, they actually disabled the drone until the mandatory update was done. This was disastrously inconvenient to anyone who had come to rely on their drone to film any one-time event which was most certainly missed when the user was surprised to find their drone suddenly grounded by DJI.

    It took me two days to accomplish the update. Five hours the first day to update the firmware in the drone and another five hours the next day because the remote would not work with the new firmware. And if you went on expedition somewhere away from internet, forget it, you’e totally screwed by DJI.

    Will somebody please tell them that these drones ceased to be their property when they sold the drones? They are just begging for a class action lawsuit when they come along and arbitrarily break OUR private property. If someone starts one, please let me know, I will be happy to join in.

    And anyone even thinking about buying a DJI product had better be aware that they will ground your drone without warning and you had better have a PhD in computer science if you ever want it to fly again. This isn’t a made-up argument like American politics, this actually happened. If you buy a DJI product, it WILL happen to you.

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