My DJI Spark drone is no more thanks to a recent trip to the beach and some bad software. Here’s what happened.
The DJI Spark
DJI is one of the most popular drone manufacturers on the market. Over the last decade, they have proven themselves to be the standard for consumers. Throughout that period, the lineup has expanded into more advanced and more affordable options, enter the DJI Spark.
The Spark is a great entry-level drone because of its easy-to-fly modes. It comes with a standard obstacle avoidance feature that will prevent flyers from damaging their drone if it leaves their control. For example, using gesture controls, a flyer can wave their hand to bring the drone close or push it away to snap a hands-free group photo.
Like the DJI Mavic Pro and other models, it features a mechanical gimbal that keeps the camera focused on a target regardless of where it flies and allows movement of the camera for front-facing or top-down imagery. Owners can fly the Spark via a wi fi connection from a smartphone. I’d recommend picking up the Fly More combo pack with an extra battery and charging hub for more productive sessions.
One of the greatest advantages of the type is the DJI Spark’s battery. A power button on the front indicates the remaining battery life by illuminating green lights (1-4.) This intelligent flight battery helps the drone fly longer and communicates with the controller when it’s time to return home.
The DJI spark is still available on the secondary market but has been replaced by the Mavic Mini 2.
This Drone Doesn’t Swim
I don’t take my drone everywhere I go, but I do like to take it to large open areas where I can fly it freely and capture some nice vistas. One of my favorite places to fly my drone is at the beach and I have been testing the boundaries of the drone and pushing its battery supply. I didn’t charge my Spark before heading to the beach on this trip so I have had about 10 minutes of flight time vs 16 minutes per battery if I had full battery life.
I had flown it particularly high and then low again at top speed (though safely) operating to the ceiling of about 180′ and just above the sand and sea. On this specific day, I paid attention to something I never have before.
Within the DJI Go 4 App, it established a “Home Base” just feet from where I was seated on the sand, about 30 feet back from the water’s edge. When the DJI Spark has an assigned home base, there’s a one-touch action to return that exact spot hovering until it is safely lowered to the ground. This feature is designed to save the equipment if you get into trouble.
I was flying low across the water’s surface (there were no people, other than my daughter in the ocean for a thousand feet) when a low battery alert came across my phone’s screen which I was using as my remote control. Though it was only down to 20%, I thought it prudent to return the device home. As the drone was flying in front of me and my daughter, I pressed the “return home” button and watched as my drone failed to slow down, change direction, or at a minimum, climb. Instead, it descended into the sea in the course of about three seconds.
There was just enough time for me to try to get the return home canceled and hover or at least maintain course, but to no avail. I threw my phone to the sand and ran to the beach where my daughter was able to pull it out from the waves after just a few seconds underwater.
Unfortunately, the saltwater had already done its damage and my mini drone was no more. As I shook the water from the drone trying to salvage it if possible, I looked at my phone and it had a button flashing asking me to confirm I wanted to cancel my return to home.
Will I Replace It?
When I first purchased my drone, I was certain I would take it on every trip and capture stunning pictures and flybys of incredible locations – just as it is marketed. However, when I applied it to my type of travel, I found it less useful than I had hoped. For example, despite the small size of the device I didn’t want to fly it over a busy plaza in Mexico, and I’d certainly be arrested for doing so in Rome over the Spanish Steps. I even applied for a filming permit in Manchester, England but never received a reply.
Yet the quality of the footage was so good, and I enjoyed flying it and teaching my daughter about flight. So I am torn on whether to replace it, even at the low price point of about $300.
It was disappointing to see my drone drop into the ocean. I take responsibility for not manually flying it back to the shore but I also expected the DJI software to work better than it did especially for what amounts to a safety measure. I’m not sure if I will replace it, upgrade to a different model, or hang up my pilot wings for good.
What do you think? Do you have a drone? Have you lost it or damaged it beyond repair?