SPARK, the mini-camera drone that you can literally launch from the palm of your hand, could become the hottest top end tech toy under the Christmas tree in Australia this year.
That's certainly the hope of DJI, the world's leader in civilian drones, following the launch of a drone which can be controlled by hand gestures alone.
Sydney's Luna Park proved a fun launching pad for the $859 device which will start being delivered in Australia from June.
The drone is particularly designed for first time users, though with a 12 megapixel camera and some cool flight modes, it will also appeal to professional photographers, video bloggers and wannabe YouTube stars.
DJI, now with 8000 employees, a quarter of whom work in research and development, are no slouches when it comes to drone wizardry.
The company last year launched the Phantom 4, which has its own Obstacle Sensing System autonomous flight modes.
The company also makes the OSMO mobile, a handheld gimbal that turns your smartphone into super smooth camera.
It also has the Mavic Pro, a compact, foldable drone.
But the Spark, which is the size and weight of a can of coke, is clearly aimed at bringing the world of drones to the masses.
Based on the reaction of many at the launch, we could be seeing a lot more of these little beauties in our skies.
After launching off your hand, Sparks locks on your face and hand, though in our testing, it was a little hit and miss when it came to following gestures.
You can wave your hand to the left and the drone will follow, along with up and down.
A quick hand wave will send it away into the sky to set up a selfie shot. That was probably where it struggled the most.
You can then frame your face with a selfie symbol of sorts and it counts down to take a shot from above.
The beauty of hand gestures, according to DJI, is that allows people to better enjoy the moment that are trying to capture, rather than playing with a phone to control the drone.
But for more precise controls, you can use an app.
Some of the modes include QuickShot where Spark will fly along a preset flight path while recording a short video and tracking a subject along the way.
Four QuickShots are available: Rocket, sending Spark straight up into the air with the camera pointed
down; Dronie, flying up and away from your subject; Circle, rotating around the subject; and Helix, spiralling away from a subject as it flies upward.
The Helix option is the most impressive of them all - a movement that would normally take drone pilots quite a while to learn.
For each QuickShot, Spark will automatically create a 10-second video from your flight that is ready to share on social media.
Previously introduced modes such as TapFly and ActiveTrack can also be found on Spark.
A new TapFly sub mode called Coordinate allows Spark to fly to a location you tap on your mobile device screen.
TapFly's Direction Mode lets you keep flying in the direction you tap on the screen. Using ActiveTrack, Spark will automatically recognise and track an object you choose, keeping it at the centre of the frame.
DJI says Spark's 3D Sensing System will actively sense obstacles in front of the aircraft.
With the remote controller accessory, operators can switch to Sport Mode and unleash Spark's speed of up 50 kph. Sport Mode sets the gimbal to first-person view (FPV) by default, so the camera moves with you as you fly.
Spark will also be compatible with DJI Goggles for an immersive FPV flight experience.
The surprise is the price. Instead of paying, say $2599 for a DJI Phantom 4 Pro, or $1699 for a foldable Mavic Pro, the DJI Spark will sell in Australia for $859, or $1199 with a combo pack.
The pack includes four pairs of spare propellers, two extra batteries, a charging hub and remote controller. DJI hopes the lower price will make the Spark attractive to consumers generally.
Spark is easy to fly from the outset
DJI senior communications manager Michael Oldenburg said the Spark would appeal to those nervous about losing their first drone.
"With Spark you can fly with confidence,'' he said at the launch.
"Simply because how small it is, how easy it is fly and to control."
"I went out to the beach this morning and with two taps I was able to do the dronie or the helix.
"We make it so easy.
"If you have ever tried to fly a drone around you and have that camera pointed on you the whole time, it takes a lot of practice.''
He said it was a drone that offered the simplicity of a mobile phone to capture life's moments, whether it be surfing or a Bondi sunset.
Video blogger Jamie Perkins agreed.
"It's literally a drone that anyone can pick up fly.
"It's so compact I can take it anywhere.'''
Perkins said the helix feature was probably the most impressive.
"All of a sudden the drone just started circling around me.''
He said he like it as you could 'create memories and live in the moment' at the same time.
So how good is Spark's camera
The camera has a 1/2.3" CMOS sensor that captures 12 megapixel photos and shoots stabilised HD 1080p videos.
It has a two-axis mechanical gimbal and technology to reduce shake and rolling.
Two of the new modes include Pano and ShallowFocus.
In Pano Mode, the camera creates horizontal or vertical panoramas by adjusting its gimbal and heading, taking a series of pictures and stitching them together. ShallowFocus allows you to put part
of a picture into sharp focus while the rest of the image is softened, creating photographs with a shallowdepth of field.
The DJI Go 4 app includes a selection of filters and editing templates for quick editing and sharing to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
An array of filters and automatic editing templates available in the DJI GO 4 app enables
creators to quickly edit videos and share them directly to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
DJI says Spark's FlightAutonomy system consists of the main camera, a downward-facing vision system, a forwardfacing 3D Sensing System, dual-band GPS and GLONASS, a high-precision inertial measurement unit, and 24 powerful computing cores.
It can sense obstacles from up to five metres away and hover from up to 30 metres away.
Importantly, for those worried about losing their drone, Spark can return to its home point automatically with a sufficient GPS signal.
While using the remote controller, if the battery gets too low, connection is lost, or the operator presses the Return to Home (RTH) button, Spark flies back to the preset home point while sensing obstacles in its path.
It also integrates DJI's GEO System or NFZ geofencing to provide you with up-to-date guidance on areas where flight may be limited by regulations or raise safety or security concerns.
It has a maximum flight time of up to 16 minutes.
When flying with the remote controller accessory, Spark allows for 720p real-time video transmission from up to two kilometres away.
Spark's Price and Availability in Australia
The Australian retail price of DJI Spark, including an aircraft, a battery, a USB charger and three pairs of propellers, is $859.
Spark is available in Alpine White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Lava Red, and Sunrise Yellow.
The Spark Fly More Combo includes an aircraft, two batteries, four pairs of propellers, a remote controller, propeller guards, a charging hub, a shoulder bag and all necessary cables, with a retail price of $1199.