When the DJI Spark was first launched at a slick New York City event in May, plenty of people were blown away. That’s because you could control some aspects of this small drone (DJI’s smallest to date) with your hands alone.

Gesture control with the DJI Spark

Gesture control with the DJI Spark

Those gesture controls looked almost magical at first glance; the Spark’s intelligence locking onto a subject’s hand (or palm) and carrying out certain flight patterns based on movement. Selfies, palm landings, even a little departure and a friendly return back to your upraised arms.

For some, especially those who haven’t used the device, the response might be: Why bother? Why not just go with conventional controls?

The answer, at least from the TDC view, seems inextricably linked to the tagline/hashtag used when the product was launched: #SeizeTheMoment.

A new pilot gets to fly the Spark using hand gestures alone at the Toronto media launch. Photo by Scott Simmie/TDC

A new pilot gets to fly the Spark using hand gestures alone at the Toronto media launch. Photo by Scott Simmie/TDC

Unlike other drones, the Spark in hand gesture mode requires virtually no setup. Simply power it up, and you’re in a position to pop up the Spark for some quick selfies. You can also bring it back home and have it land on the palm of your hand (don’t forget propeller guards!), all without any cumbersome setup time. In that sense, for someone who wants to capture something on the fly, the Spark truly does allow you to #SeizeTheMoment.

TDC hasn’t yet had the opportunity to fly the Spark with the optional remote (which extends the range to some two kilometres!), but we have flown it fairly extensively using the DJI GO 4 app.

And that app, as you may know, features a few distinguishing features for the Spark:

  • Virtual stick controls
  • Intelligent tracking features
  • QuickShot pre-programmed aerial moves

The virtual sticks allow you to control flight by moving your thumbs on the screen of your smartphone or tablet, almost as if you were using sticks. Like a regular DJI controller, if you simply let go the drone will hover in one spot, giving you time to plan your next shot or move. (It’s also handy for first-time pilots, who might get a little nervous and simply want to catch their breath for a moment!)

The intelligent tracking features are very cool, and borrow from technology in higher-end drones, including the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Professional, and even the Inspire 2. Essentially, these let you lock on to a person and track them while they walk, cycle or just plain move (and even stay firmly on them when they’re *not* moving).

But the real genius of the Spark, at least in our view, is the selection of QuickShot features.

Though learning how to fly a drone is now pretty easy compared to the old days, it still takes a lot of practice and skill to carry out really smoothly executed video shots. This is especially true when you want to keep your subject perfectly framed. So, for example, trying to fly an expanding spiral away from a person while keeping them in the shot takes a significant amount of piloting chops.

And that’s where QuickShot comes in. In conjunction with the DJI GO 4 app, QuickShot allows you to choose from multiple pre-programmed flight modes, all of which will keep your subject in picture-perfect framing. Those moves include:

DRONIE

HELIX

ROCKET

All of these truly do allow you to simply capture the moment instead of worrying about controls. They also allow you to be *in* the shot and looking at the camera instead of staring at a screen.

For those of you new to the Spark, DJI has put together a tutorial that helps explain how to make the most of these features:

That’s a ton of intelligence wedged into a very portable package. And, for newbies and pros alike, the Spark really does offer one-touch (and even no-touch!) convenience you won’t find elsewhere.