When the last DJI-related leak emerged with images of a small, foldable drone, it turned out to be pretty much bang on the money. The Mavic was announced shortly after and the images definitely matched up. Now, just weeks after we discovered that DJI has registered a new trademark, ‘Spark’, images have surfaced that might just fit that one-word description.
When you think of ‘Spark’, you think of something small and fast. Well, we do anyway. To that end, it’s safe to assume that DJI is working on something radically different from what we’re used to seeing from the drone industry’s dominant manufacturer. Instead of the recent release of the beastly M200 or the equally impressive Inspire 2, a drone of smaller stature would more likely be targeted towards consumers new to the industry.
Could it be a racing drone, or perhaps a smaller, ‘selfie’ style model to compete with the likes of the Yuneec Breeze? Below are a couple of images we’ve sourced that suggest the truth may be the latter. You don’t tend to see what looks like a 2-axis gimbal on racing drones, so it looks likely that, if this image is genuine, DJI is planning a release at the lower end of the market – Something to satisfy fans of Unmanned Aerial Vanity.
So, we can probably confirm that it’s not going to be a racing drone. In many ways, that’s quite disappointing. Although it’s not truly mainstream yet, a mainstream manufacturer like DJI would introduce countless more people to a sport that’s certainly on the rise.
But let’s assume this is going to be a small selfie drone. It looks tiny. Barely 7 inches long and slightly less wide, if the measurements in the images are correct. To give you some perspective, that’s about half the size of the Mavic, which is already pretty tiny by consumer photography drone standards.
The interesting questions come when we consider what other features a smaller, less complicated DJI drone could have. For example, the Chinese drone giant’s obstacle avoidance technology has been built into every drone the company has released since the Phantom 4. Would it be ridiculous to assume that, even at what we hope will be a significantly lower price – (We don’t think DJI has ever released a drone for under $1,000 by the way) – that level of technology would be included as standard?
The consumer industry will hopefully get to the point where even cheap drones come off the shelf with advanced safety features as standard. But isn’t 2017 a bit too soon for that?
If DJI wants to get away with relentless product releases, it’s going to have to accept that 1. it will be it’s own biggest rival, and 2. new drones will need to offer significant improvements on older models to persuade customers to part with their cash (again). On being its own biggest rival, the company doesn’t seem to mind one bit. In fact, its aggressive strategy and high-quality has proven too much for other manufacturers to handle. On delivering drones that continue to inspire cash out of wallets, that remains to be seen.
The question of price will be key to the success of any claim DJI decides to make for the ‘Selfie’ drone market. The Yuneec Breeze, arguably the most high-profile drone in this sector at the moment, currently sells for $449. More than half as cheap as DJI has ever launched a drone before.
DJI isn’t in the habit of catering to the masses. Instead, it’s built up its market domination by releasing drones at the top end and letting older models slip down the ladder and compete with rivals in lower price brackets. Just look at the Phantom 3, which remains one of the best drones on the market under $1,000.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the photos above come to fruition. DJI is no stranger to March/April releases. It’s been barely a year since the Phantom 4 was unveiled. It’s more likely that any new models will be introduced in the summer though – that seems a more sensible time for selfie drones, anyway.
We’ll keep you updated, but for now the DJI Spark is little more than speculation and a few grainy leaked photographs.