Nobody does a big reveal in the drone industry quite like DJI. Sure, we knew it was going to be small. But although the various leaks gave clues about the size of the DJI Spark before the main event, we were taken aback at just how much technology has been packed into this tiny drone. And if anyone thought the Chinese manufacturer was going to sacrifice some of the company’s famed quality to compensate for that lack of stature, they were wrong.
Instead, it looks like the Spark could be DJI’s catalyst for total domination of the drone market.
That might sound like a big claim, but it’s not really that dramatic. After all, it’s estimated that the Chinese manufacturer already has a stranglehold on drones sold in North America. Speaking to Recode, industry analyst Colin Snow suggested that in 2016 the company was responsible for 50% of all drone sales; 36% of sales in the $500-$1,000 bracket, 66% in the $1,000-$2,000 bracket and 67% in the $2,000-$4,000 bracket.
To give you some perspective on those numbers, Parrot and Yuneec – two manufacturers seen as highly competitive – captured just 7 percent each of the market in the $500-$1,000 price range last year.
There are two conclusions to draw from that. The first is that those figures can’t even have properly accounted for the continued popularity of the drones DJI launched at the end of 2016. That number is likely to be higher in 2017 given the spectacular rise and fall of GoPro and the gradual move away from consumer drones for companies such as 3DR and Parrot.
The second conclusion is the most relevant to the DJI Spark. The one area where DJI wasn’t dominant last year was in the drones under $500 market. And that was only because none of the company’s drones were priced in that range. Now that the manufacturer has launched a product for the bottom end of the market, what’s stopping it from dominating consumer and prosumer sales for years to come?
Why the DJI Spark is an ideal drone for complete novices
The top end of the drone industry is an intimidating place. There’s plenty of talk of frames per second, yaw, gimbals and payloads – all terms your average tech fan will know little about. For professional photographers and serious enthusiasts, these details are vital. But for people new to the industry, a focus on them can be off-putting, complex and unnecessary.
The DJI Spark looks like it’s been designed to cut through all of that, with a series of smart, simple and intuitive functions. Sure, the camera quality isn’t going to stack up compared to DJI’s more expensive models. But it isn’t supposed to. The Spark audience consists of families, selfie lovers and people who want to capture moments on the go. A lack of 4K video isn’t the end of the world.
Instead, barriers that would previously have put people off buying a drone have been removed. It’s certainly not cheap at $499, but that price makes it a genuine proposition that newcomers can consider. It’s packed with safety features to make crashing a relatively unlikely prospect. It comes with a controller but can be easily directed with just the palm of your hand. One-click flight modes make difficult manoeuvres available to pilots from day one.
It’s also ridiculously tiny, so is great for shooting spontaneously when on the move.
All of this appears to make the DJI Spark…
The perfect entry level product to kick off a drone addiction
Decision makers at DJI will know that the release of an entry-level drone is about more than mopping up the bottom end of the market. It’s about building brand loyalty with newcomers and enticing them up the chain towards more serious models.
More drone pilots is good news for DJI because of the company’s domination in the middle and at the top of the market. The DJI Spark looks like beginner-friendly drone newcomers have been waiting for.
The family factor
Flying a drone is often portrayed as quite an anti-social hobby. It’s not a team sport or a family event; it’s hard for others to get involved. All of DJI’s messaging around the Spark has been carefully tailored to give off the opposite impression. This drone can take off from the hand of a child, can be used to capture fleeting family moments and is easy for anyone to control.
Tapping into the family-friendly entertainment market could be a lucrative step for DJI with the Spark. It’s not a position many other manufacturers have taken. Time will tell whether that’s because the concept is seen as unfeasible or whether other manufacturers simply don’t have the technology required to make it happen.
The Spark even comes in a range of different colors – one for each family member?
Pioneering drone technology and setting the standard
Sure, we just said that people buying a drone at the bottom end of the market aren’t that fussed about specs and performance. They want ease of use and reliability. Having said that, there’s no getting away from the fact that the DJI Spark manages to be both far more advanced than its direct competition and unintimidating at the same time.
Obstacle avoidance, 16 minutes of flight time, intelligent flight modes, easy social sharing and gesture control… all are setting the standard for drones retailing at under $500.
If selfie drones are going to go mainstream, the Spark will be the catalyst
It’s still too soon to say whether selfie drones are ever going to make it into the mainstream. There’s been plenty of hype surrounding products like the Yuneec Breeze and the Hover Camera. But we still don’t know if this is a market niche with a limited lifespan or a permanent fixture in the drone industry.
One thing’s for sure: by setting the standard in terms of price, accessibility, performance and branding, the DJI Spark has everything required to take selfie drones into the mainstream.
We can’t wait to get our hands on one for a review. You’ll be the first to know when we do.