DJI Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which is better?

The new DJI Spark is the drone maker’s first step into lower cost, strictly consumer-targeted drones.

With the new DJI Spark, DJI fans will be able to purchase their first drone priced at an initially cost of less than $500. There’s only one other sub-$500 DJI drone out there on the market right now; currently users can also buy the DJI Phantom 3 Standard for about $500, though it was initially priced closer to $1,000.

But it seems the debate is: which is better? The DJI Mavic Pro? Or the DJI Spark? Here are the specs:

 DJI MavicDJI Spark
Cost$999$499
Takeoff Weight1.62 pounds0.66 pounds
Max Speed40 mph31 mph in Sport Mode
Max Flight Time27 minutes16 minutes
Diagonal Distance13.26.7 inches
Cost of extra battery$89$49
ControllerRC controller or smartphoneRC controller, smartphone or gesture control
Sensor1/2.3” (CMOS), Effective pixels:12.35 M (Total pixels:12.71M)1/2.3" CMOS
Effective pixels: 12 MP
ISO RangeVideo: 100-3200
Photo: 100-1600
Video: 100-3200
Photo: 100-1600
Image Size4000×30003968×2976
Video ResolutionC4K: 4096×2160 24p FHD: 1920×1080 30p

There are some obvious differences between the two, like size. The Mavic was revolutionary for its ability to fold up to the size of a soda can — making it much more convenient than something like the Phantom to tote around. But the Spark is even smaller.

And with the smaller size, it also means the Spark is a lot quieter, and a lot less annoying.

Here are some other differences: Continue reading DJI Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which is better?

Draft legislation from the Trump administration would allow the government to track, hack and destroy drones

The following is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

A Trump administration proposal to allow the federal government to track, hack and destroy drones flying in the U.S. is raising eyebrows among some aviation experts.

The proposed new rules, according to a draft of a bill obtained by the New York Times this week, would enable the government to use “reasonable force to disable, disrupt, damage or destroy” drones that pose a threat, and any objects the drones are carrying.

 

In the past few years, companies specializing in drone countermeasures have begun popping up — and these companies would likely benefit from the proposed legislation. DroneShield, for instance, sells a Dronegun, which is a jammer that can disrupt a drone’s remote control, forcing it to land or return to its starting point. In some European countries there are companies training eagles to take down drones midair.

Dedrone has developed software that can detect drones in the vicinity before they even take off, and its software is already being used in a few prisons and for events, including during the 2016 presidential debate at Hofstra University. Continue reading Draft legislation from the Trump administration would allow the government to track, hack and destroy drones

DJI Spark drone is the stuff of Jedi-mind tricks with its gesture control features

DJI’s newest drone is the stuff of Jedi mind tricks.

The Chinese-based drone maker today announced a tiny, $499 drone called Spark, the company’s smallest drone to date. But the standout feature is that the Spark drone can be controlled purely by gesture control. The drone’s camera can detect its user’s body movements such as raising and lowering your hands or waving them. It then can interpret those gestures to follow commands such as flying up and down, or taking a picture.

The DJI Spark can even land in the palm of your hand — a seemingly impossible feature that hopeful competitors like Lily once promised — and failed to deliver. (The drone startup Lily filed for bankruptcy and never shipped a drone to any of the over 61,000 people who pre-ordered one.)

This is the first time that DJI has announced a product designed specifically for consumers, previously having left smaller drone-makers like Intel-funded Yuneec and French drone-maker Parrot to make drones at those lower price points.

Continue reading DJI Spark drone is the stuff of Jedi-mind tricks with its gesture control features

DJI Spark: Watch the news live

Update: the DJI Spark has been formally announced. Read all about it here.

DJI is expected to announce a new drone that could be called the Spark today at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Earlier this year, leaked images showed a drone that resembled a miniature version of the DJI Mavic. It is unclear what the Spark drone is intended to be used for, though it could fill one corner of the market where DJI is still lacking: low-cost, toy drones. DJI’s cheapest drone available is still about $400-$500.

Watch the entire announcement unfold live, right here:

Flybrix review: using Legos to build a drone

Yes, it is possible to fly a bunch of Legos through the air. Are Legos the most optimal, aerodynamic material? Definitely not. But they sure are fun — and an awesome learning tool.

San Francisco startup Flybrix developed a kit consisting of Legos, a preprogrammed board, propellers and motors for kids and kids-at-heart to build their own drones. The kits start at $189.

It’s intended to be a tool to teach its users a variety of skills, from the principles of flight to computer science to the basics of electrical engineering.  It’s an awesome tool for the classroom, for kids and their parents, or just for any drone user looking for a fun weekend project.

Flybrix: what’s in the box

Continue reading Flybrix review: using Legos to build a drone

Hobby drone pilots don’t have to register with FAA, court rules

The following is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s requirement that hobby drone users register their devices was struck down in an appeals court Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of John Taylor, a drone hobbyist who had challenged the legality of the FAA’s drone-registration program.

The program, which was instituted in December 2015, required hobby drone owners to register through an FAA website for a $5 fee. Drone hobbyists were then issued a unique identification, which they were required to mark on their drones. Within the first month, nearly 300,000 drone owners had registered.

The court struck down the FAA’s registration rule, referencing the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. That rule stated that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” Continue reading Hobby drone pilots don’t have to register with FAA, court rules

Ask Drone Girl: which drones can fly indoors AND do heavy lifting?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drones that can both fly in doors and carry a relatively heavy payload. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

We are looking drones that can carry 5 kilograms of weight for indoor applications where the max flying height of 5 meters. What would you recommend?

It turns out, you don’t need a complicated, custom solution. DJI actually makes a product you may be able to use — the DJI Matrice 100.

I chatted with Will Stavanja, the founder of Wilstair — a North Carolina-based company that provides commercial aerial robotics systems integration. . His past life is pretty interesting — with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanial Aerospace Engineering, he co-led an Urban High Rise Rescue educational project for Boeing to develop a drone concept model that could be used to rescue people from burning high-rise buildings.  He said he uses a DJI M100 or custom 525mm + 8 configuration for indoor operations that require large drones. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: which drones can fly indoors AND do heavy lifting?

Ask Drone Girl: where can I get an off-the-shelf, photogrammetric calibrated drone camera?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about photogrammetric calibrated drone cameras. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m looking for commercial off the shelf, photogrammetric calibrated drone cameras. The only ones I have found are the Phase One cameras. Are you aware of any others?

You stumped me on this one, so I reached out to my friend, Patrick Stuart, who is the ‎Senior Director of Product, Web and Mobile at Skycatch, a San Francisco-based startup that uses software to make commercial drone maps and models processed in the cloud for construction, mining and energy. Here’s what he told me:

“It all depends on the use-case,” he said. “If you need to do millimeter-resolution 3D mesh then, yes, perhaps this would be necessary. For example, you may need to get a 100000% “perfect” 3D mesh of a large statue or something.”

A Phase One camera is going to run you thousands of dollars. If you don’t need THAT much precision, there are cheaper options. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: where can I get an off-the-shelf, photogrammetric calibrated drone camera?

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones