DJI Spark leaked – FPV Racer

UPDATE: Release Announcement Invitations are out! Check the latest leaked images of the DJI Spark. The latest DJI drone, the DJI Spark has been leaked. The drone will be even smaller than the Mavic Pro and will be more oriented towards FPV racing. It will still be able to capture smooth 4K video and even have some of the obstacle avoidance we have become used to. Everything we know about the leaked DJI Spark is available below.

DJI Spark


DJI filed for a trademark with the name SPARK on March 9th. Why this is important you will see in the Release Date section below. In some of the leaked information, there is a reference to not only Spark but also the codename MM1A. This could potentially also receive the name Mavic Mini or Mini Mavic, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it was indeed called the DJI Spark.

We have been waiting for a drone of this size and style to be released for a while now. DJI did release their oddly named “Snail” FPV Racing motor and ESC line a few months back. We thought a tiny compact FPV or selfie drone was long overdue.

Update 10: The DJI Spark Countdown!

The time has come! The DJI Spark Release is around the corner. You will be able to follow along the Announcement by following this link during the Announcement:

DJI Spark Announcement

Update 9: Official DJI Spark Teaser released!

DJI today released an official teaser video for the May 24th “Seize the Moment” Event. Check out below:

 

Update 8: Spark Release Invitations are out!

DJI has sent out invitations for a May 24th Event in New York City. The timeline of the FCC filings, leaked images which you can check out below and the fact that the Spark wasn’t released at NAB point to an announcement at this event. Stay tuned for further updates regarding the DJI Spark release!


Update 7: Further leaked DJI Spark images leaked

In the image below you can for the first time get a glimpse of what the remote control for the DJI Spark will look like. At first glance, it appears very similar to the remote control of the Mavic Pro. You can see that the built-in LCD screen has been left out, most likely for cost saving reasons. The normal smartphone holders appear to fold down just as they do on the Sparks bigger brothers remote control, the Mavic Pro. Additionally visible are three batteries with the new quad contact points for the rumored charging station. The battery on the left appears to have a fake shell surrounding a harder battery enclosure, this could of course point to a prototype version.

(DJI Spark remote control and batteries leaked)

Update 6: DJI Goggles are released

The long awaited DJI Goggles are now available for limited pre-order. They are rumored to be compatible with the DJI Spark!

Update 5: NAB Event didn’t release DJI Spark

DJI just completed the Create your Legacy event in Las Vegas. The latest rumors of the DJI Spark coming next month are sounding more and more solid. DJI released the Ronin 2 & new Cendance Remote Controllers.

Invitations for the Release Event are out!

DJI has sent invitations to a Product Announcement Event which will be held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas on April 23rd at 5:00 pm PDT. There are rumors of an event on April 15th, but without an invitation or any kind of proof, we would place our bets on April 23rd.

What to expect at the Event:

The email sent by DJI to selected few was headlined with the slogan “Discover the future of imagining technology”. Now that’s a pretty wide open ended statement. Will it include a new product out of the Hasselblad/DJI Partnership? Will we see the CrystalSky displays? Will the DJI Goggles arrive with the DJI Spark? These are all questions we will find answers to on April 23rd. Stay tuned for updates.

Here’s what we will most likely see at the April 23rd Event:

  • DJI Spark (Update: Rumors point to a Spark release next month)
  • DJI Phantom 4 Advanced (Edit: Arrived on Apr. 13th check it out here: DJI Phantom 4 Advanced)
  • DJI Goggles (Now available in limited quantities!)
  • maybe the CrystalSky Displays
  • maybe Osmo 2 with new 1″ X4S sensor & gimbal
  • most likely some tidbits for the professional group as NAB is geared towards pros

The DJI Goggles and the Phantom 4 Advanced were just submitted as trademarks (Update: The Phantom 4 Advanced was just released). We don’t expect to see a Phantom 5 as the rumor mills are expecting. The FCC Application for the DJI Goggles shows that the goggles operate only on the 2.4 GHz band. This could further confirm rumors that the DJI Goggles will initially be compatible with the yet unreleased DJI Spark and the Mavic Pro.

Update 4: DJI Spark internal photos are here

At the rate the leaked photos are appearing there won’t be many parts of the DJI Spark that we haven’t seen before it is released! Today we get a glimpse at some of the internals of the new compact selfie drone.

(DJI Spark internals leaked)

Update 3: Additional images of the DJI Spark leaked!

Well, that didn’t take very long. Additional images of the DJI Spark have been leaked, and we have them all for you below. Check out all the images, as we get a peek at a pre-production model and also see what the Spark weighs!

First up is another comparison with a Mavic Pro. The initial one towards the bottom of this article was photoshopped whereas this one is an actual photo taken with both the DJI Spark and Mavic Pro next to each other.

(DJI Spark next to a Mavic Pro)

(Here you can see the Spark on top of a Mavic Pro for a size comparison)

(Mavic Pro motor on top and Spark motor on bottom, note the similar propeller Quick-Release mechanism)

(Closeup of battery compartment of the DJI Spark)

(Front Obstacle Avoidance Sensors are hidden inside the reflective black panel seen above the Sparks gimbal)

Update 2: The DJI Spark has been spotted in black

The Spark FPV or Selfie Drone has been spotted in the wild and this time in black. As you can see in the image below the top shell, arms and even motors are either a dark black semi-glossy or gray injection molded plastic.

(Top of the DJI Spark in black)

(Bottom of the black Spark with the battery removed)

 

Update 1: More rumors on the Spark gimbal and camera

The originally leaked images of the Spark’s gimbal (see lower on this page) show us how the gimbal will stabilize the tilt and roll movements while flying the Spark as a compact photo/video or selfie drone.  Will there really only be these two axes of stabilization? How would this be achieved? Will there be software stabilization as on some of the others drones on the market?

The camera on the DJI Spark from the outside looks very similar to the FPV camera on the Inspire 2. The Inspire 2 FPV camera is a 640×480 global shutter camera. You may think, wow that resolution is terrible, but keep in mind that for the Inspire 2 this is all that is needed. The primary camera supports up to 5.2K resolution and streams up to 1080P to the controller. The FPV camera gets streamed on top of the already high-resolution normal HD feed. This low resolution is of course not what we expect the Spark to feature IF there is only one camera.

(DJI Spark leaked camera vs Inspire 2 FPV camera comparison)

Our two favorite ways DJI could have designed the Sparks camera are as follows:

  1. The camera lens itself moves horizontally inside the camera housing as hinted to above with the blue arrows. This would provide a similar stabilization as we have seen on iPhone Plus models and several mirrorless cameras from Sony and the like.
  2. The camera lens is stationary inside the housing and there is something else taking up space next to the camera lens visible. One option would be to have another smaller lens for FPV and utilize the larger visible lens for shooting photos and videos, but this doesn’t make too much sense as the whole camera is the size of the Inspire 2’s FPV camera already.

Either way, we find it interesting that the camera of the DJI Spark appears to have enough room to either move or there is some mysterious other part hiding the dark shadows.

 

FPV Racer or just compact aerial imaging drone?

There are a few technical challenges which would have to be solved in order to make this a true FPV racer. One of the most important features of dedicated FPV Racing rigs are the low latencies (or video lag) between the FPV cameras onboard the quadcopters and the image being shown on the screen. In most cases, the video is sent directly to FPV goggles which are the standard way to fly an FPV style drone.

DJI’s Ocusync and Lightbridge technologies offer superb, crystal clear HD video of what is being captured by the drone in the sky. The only downside is the latency. Ocusync would be favored for this style of drone over Lightbridge as it does a bit of a better job of reducing latency at a small price of quality by pixel dumping. Pixel dumping reduces the necessary bandwidth required to send the image down to the receiving image device. In any case, Ocusync has a latency of around 120-140ms which is an improvement over Lightbridges 200-250ms, but it still isn’t as fast as dedicated FPV racers still utilizing analog transmission technology. Why do they do this? Because they achieve latency in the 40ms range.

There are a few ways this could be achieved in a system such as the digital Ocusync used by DJI in the Mavic Pro and this not-yet-released Spark. The simplest answer would be to include an analog transmitter and receiver to allow the lower latency video signal to be used for FPV racing mode. This most likely will not happen though. The leaked information mention a 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz band being used for the Spark. Another option would be to reduce the lag from receiving the video signal to the transmitter of the drone and then streaming it to your mobile device. Each time the signal gets passed to another device, an increase of latency is introduced.

DJI announced that they will be releasing their Goggles with dual 1080p displays offering users an 85-degree field of view at some point this year. How would these goggles help reduce latency? The signal from the drone would be transmitted directly to the goggles to avoid having to make another jump from the remote control to the drone itself. Will this allow for a 40ms latency utilizing digital 1080p signals? No, probably not. However, for the change from a low-resolution analog signal which is used currently in the FPV racing world to a fully digital high-resolution signal, we would accept a slightly higher latency.

The other good news for FPV flying is that the range doesn’t have to be 5-7 km as it is on the Mavic Pro. Perhaps this reduction of range for at least FPV flying will allow DJI to implement a lower latency solution. For normal aerial photo- and videography they could utilize the current high resolution, long-range Ocusync as we have come to love.

Alright enough about latency, let’s take a look at a few leaked images and rumored features of the new super compact Spark drone.

 

(DJI Spark front view) Note the quick-release motor mounts as found on the mavic

Features

We expect the following features on the DJI Spark:

  • Compact size, yet arms will not be foldable
  • Obstacle Avoidance to the front and bottom
  • Foldable propellers
    • utilizing the similar quick release as featured on the mavic
  • Contacts on the bottom of the body will allow charging without removing the battery
    • The USB charger in the leaked images most likely won’t charge the drone, read on to find out why not
  • 15 minute flight time
  • “3” Axis Gimbal
    • rotational axis will be dampened internally. The camera will move horizontally inside the camera housing.
  • Camera – 4K 24fps, 1080P HD 60fps
  • Weight without battery 150 – 190grams (0.33 – 0.42lbs). This could allow for an all-up-weight (AUW) of 250grams.

Why would DJI produce an even compacter drone and then not have its arms foldable? Rigidity. In tight maneuvers as flown by compact, maneuverable drones, you want the platform to be as stiff as possible. This allows for quick changes in flight attitude and also makes the drone a bit more resistant to damage.

The Gimbal

While it looks like a 2-axis gimbal from the outside the lens inside the gimbal appears to be able to move horizontally. This movement could be utilized to smoothen out horizontal movement on the yaw axis. Smartphones and cameras utilize similar optical stabilization techniques. See Update 1 as it addresses this.

 

Leaked Photos

(Spark Side View) Centered Slits in the side of the top shell will allow hot air to escape

(Spark bottom view) VPS and battery connector visible

There are a few interesting things about this leaked image above. One, it gives us the first look at the gimbal of the Spark or Mavic Mini, whatever they will call it. You can see the attachment point of the gimbal is centered behind the camera. You can also see two axes of movement possible by looking at the gimbal from the bottom. Where does the 3rd axis come from? Read on to find out :).

Another interesting thing we learn about the Spark in the above image is that it will likely be a 2S LiPo based drone. How can we tell? The battery connector has 6 pins. The mavic pro compares at 10 pins. Less cells, require less pins for DJI to do their intelligent charging, and communicating with the battery.

We also see the Ultrasonic Visual Position System (VPS) sensors. Two Ultrasonic Sensors and one optical camera can be seen above the battery.

Another look at the bottom of the Spark

In the above image, you can see 4 square contacts which allow the drone to be charged in a docking station as opposed to having to remove the battery and having to manually plug it into the charger. The flat rectangular skids next to the VPS sensors as well as past the charging contacts and the bottom of the motors are there to keep the body and sensitive electronics off the ground when the drone is on the ground. The ground clearance appears to be the tightest of any DJI drone to date. That’s ok though since this will be the smallest.

The top of the Spark is visible here, along with a USB charger and the foldable two blade propellers.

The USB charger will not be for charging the drone. How do we know this? USB works with a 5v current. Charging a 2S Lipo requires more than 5v, as the nominal voltage of a 2S Lipo is 7.4v the charging current has to be higher. A fully charged 2S Lipo will be at around 8.4v.

What do these specs mean? How will this compare to the Mavic Pro?

The DJI Spark is a bit different from the other offerings from DJI currently. Other drones primary focus in the consumer spaces are aerial video & photography. The Spark will be the first ultra-compact drone from the phantom creator.

If you are interested in the compact drones such as the Spark and the Mavic Pro it’s important to take note of the differences between the two platforms. The Spark being even smaller at roughly 15cm width. Take a look at the image below to see a comparison of the rumored Spark next to the Mavic Pro.

(The image was created by @Alesuplicy)

DJI Spark Release Date

The Spark could be released as early as end of April. The Mavic appeared 1.5 months after it’s trademark application was submitted. This could have been a tighter timeline than normal due to pressure from the GoPro Karma. We will see the DJI Spark soon!

DJI Spark Pre-Order Information will be available here

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Author: Felix

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