The DJI Spark is finally here and people are going crazy about it – this small but extremely powerful drone is a great tool for the casual flyer who’s looking to take shots from a different perspective and learn more about the amazing hobby of drone flying.
In this article, we’ll go through the complete setup process for the DJI spark, so you can get it up in the air with no hassle.
Warning! This article is very picture-heavy! If you want to avoid reading through all these paragraphs, you can watch the video version of this article.
Setting Up the DJI Spark
Unfortunately, DJI has not made it very easy for the regular user to setup their drone, and I found myself looking for help online for a part of the linking process, as it was not explained anywhere.
In today’s post, i’ll do a complete walkthrough of the initial setup process for the DJI Spark so you can avoid messing around for a few hours and get your drone in the air ASAP.
Unboxing the Spark
When you first open the box of the Spark, this is what you’re going to see: the Spark itself with its battery already installed and a set of propellers. You’ll also get the charging brick and a cable so you can connect the drone to your computer.
If you get the Fly More combo, you’ll also get the remote controller, an extra battery, a shoulder bag, 4 prop guards, a battery hub that will hold up to 3 batteries, a 16gb micro sd-card and another set of propellers. The biggest advantage of the FlyMore combo is that it saves you roughly $150, by giving you some nice extra accessories and especially the remote controller, which I highly recommend – in my upcoming article I’ll go into more detail about why the remote controller is a must-have for the DJI Spark.
On the front of the drone you can see the camera and the infrared sensor, which is used for avoiding obstacles that are in front of the aircraft. On the bottom you can see the visual positioning sensors, which detect how close the ground is. they’re also used for the famous palm-landing.
There’s also the battery, which has 2 rubber flaps, which help you remove it from the body of the drone. Underneath the battery you can find the Spark’s Wi-Fi network and password, which you should use for the initial connection. Those are also visible on the side of the hard case of the drone.
The propellers are foldable and detachable – to remove them, simply press and turn to the side while you’re holding the motors – they come off very easy, but you should only remove them if you plan to change the propellers, otherwise they can be folded quickly and you can keep your drone with them on, which is a huge plus if you travel from place to place a lot and you don’t want to waste time.
Charging and getting the aircraft ready
Once you have everything unboxed, it’s time to charge all the batteries and the remote (if you have one), so you can start the initial linking process. To do so, simply insert the micro usb cable that comes with the drone into the slot on the back of the drone.
When you finally have all the components charged and ready to go, you’ll need to insert a micro sd-card into the card slot which you can find in the back of the drone. Simply insert the card and push until it clicks back into place. Then, turn on the aircraft by pressing the power button once shortly, then let go and press again for 1-2 seconds until all the lights are on and the drone powers on and starts blinking. The procedure for turning off the drone is exactly the same.
Connecting via WiFi
Once you power on the drone, look at your smartphone’s wi-fi networks, where you should find the Spark’s wifi network. Connect to it by entering the password which I showed you earlier – again – it’s underneath the battery tray and on the side of the hard case.
DJI Go 4 App – Updating, Home Screen & Settings
When you connect to the Wi-Fi network, open the DJI Go 4 App, it’s free and it’s available both for android and iOS devices, although it’s much more stable on iOS devices, so if you have an iPhone or an iPad around you – I advise you to use it over the Android’s app.
After you open the app, you’ll most likely have to update to the latest firmware. Do not skip this, even though it’s annoying, as most of the firmware updates fix a lot of the bugs and errors from the previous versions. When you’re on the latest firmware and you see the bottom left corner where it says “Connected”, you’re good to go and you can tap “start flight” to enter the Spark’s interface.
You’ll see a ton of information, as well as different buttons, which might be confusing, but don’t worry, as we’ll go through each and every one of them. First off, let’s start with the settings button, which you can find at the top right corner of the app. Those three little dots – tap on them and you’ll enter into the settings menu. From here, you can customize your drone’s settings:
The first menu is the main controller settings. From here you can set your current position as the home point – the home point is the location where the drone will go back to if you run out of battery and you need to land – in case that happens, the drone will fly back to this point and will land safely. This is an automatic setting, and the drone will set your home point automatically by using the built-in GPS every time you start flying.
Next, there’s the “Return to home at current altitude” – so whatever altitude that you’re flying at, this is where the drone will return to home at. this is very useful if you’re flying above a large group of trees or high obstacles.
In the next section, you can set the default return to home altitude – this is the altitude where the drone is always going to be at when trying to return to home. If the home point is more than 80 meters away from the drone, the obstacle avoidance will be turned off. be careful with this, as you might forget you’ve set it to 30 meters and when you try to return to home, you might hit an obstacle on the way and crash. That’s why I’ve set my RTH altitude to 50 meters and I generally avoid using the RTH function, as I prefer to fly the drone back myself, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of fly-aways or crashes, so use this carefully.
If you’re new to flying, i suggest that you give the “beginner mode” a try. You can activate it from the next setting. Beginner mode slows down the speed of the drone and limits the range to 30 meters around the home point. It acts like a geo-fence until you get more comfortable with the controls and the speed of the Spark. Once again, if you haven’t flown a drone before, do yourself a huge favor and turn on this feature at least for a few flights.
The next section is “Sensors” – here you can see the IMU and the compass. For both of them, there’s a “calibrate” button, this is something I like to do when I go to a new location and I fly for the first time. The calibration process will take you through a series of instructions, which you’ll need to follow and then you’ll be good to go.
The second menu is about your visual navigation settings. You can switch the obstacle avoidance on or off – if you keep it on, your drone will automatically stop and hover when it detects an obstacle ahead. If you’re in Return to home mode and you’re less than 80 meters away, the drone will automatically go up and over an obstacle in its way, which is really cool. the help text is also telling you that the obstacle avoidance cameras have 70 degrees horizontal and 54 degrees vertical field of view, and it also tells you that when the ambient light is weak, the 3d sensing system will also work well.
Enable backwards flying – this is usually used when you’re tracking an object and you want to have it in frame as it comes towards you – i usually have it enabled in most of my shots, but I also disable it sometimes when I know there will be obstacles in the way. If you’re not comfortable flying yet – you might want to leave it off permanently, at least in the beginning.
The last section from this menu allows you to turn on the advanced gesture control which the Spark is known for – by turning this setting on, you’ll be able to use Palm Launch, Palm Land and Palm Control.
The next setting from the menu is the wi-fi settings. Here, you can see which channel your drone is using and you can change your Wi-Fi name and password. Personally i don’t change anything from this menu, but if you need to switch to another channel for your wi-fi, this is where you should go.
Next, we have the virtual joystick settings. You can choose between 3 different stick modes, which basically change the controls for your drone – i personally fly on mode 2, as it feels the most natural to me, but you can choose whatever you are the most comfortable with.
On the bottom of the screen you can change the joystick speed – or how fast the drone reacts to your input. I have mine all the way to the right on fast, but if you’re going to be in beginner mode you might want to experiment a bit and slow it down a bit so you get more comfortable.
You can always reset the flight speed control settings and start over, if you want.
In the following menu, there’s information about the battery – you can see the voltage, the temperature, how many times you’ve charged this particular battery, your battery’s serial number and the low battery warning percentage. I always use 30%, so I can have enough time to go back to my home point and land safely before my drone runs out of juice.
Next we get to the gimbal settings. If you’re using the DJI goggles you can set the gimbal mode to FPV, otherwise keep it in Follow mode. You can also adjust the gimbal roll and pitch – use that if you find that the horizontal or the vertical lines in your footage are not perfectly flat.
Lastly we have the general settings: We have the measurement unit, you can choose between imperial and metric. Next is live streaming, so here’s where you can livestream to facebook, youtube or other platforms. You also have map coordinates for China mainland, leave that off if you’re not in China.
Cache during video shooting – what this does is save a version of your footage on your phone in the app. The main footage is still going to be on the Spark, but the video cache will allow you to see the footage right away and if you want to do a quick edit from the app and share it, this will allow you to do so. You can select how big the cache could get, if you want to clear it automatically once it reaches this amount, and if you want to record audio with the cache.
Then lastly you have the device name, and the about menu, which gives you all of the information about your aircraft’s version, the flight database, the app database and the flight controller serial number.
DJI GO 4 App – Screen controls
Now that we went through all of the settings in the menu, it’s time to see what we have on the screen.
First, the red button is your video record button. The button above that switches from video to photo mode – now when you click on the button it takes a photo, if you switch back to video mode it will take a video.
You can access a very cool feature from the little icon above that – what it does is as you tilt your phone, you can pan up and down and rotate the gimbal with your phone. You can use this feature if you’re using your smartphone to fly the Spark, and i really like it because it’s really smooth and easy to use.
If you don’t have the remote controller and you want to fly the spark with your phone, you can bring up the controls on the screen by tapping on the icon with the 4 arrows in the left corner – once you do that, you’ll see the 2 joysticks in the middle of your screen.
If you press and hold the screen for 2 seconds, you’ll see a dot with a blue border around it – that’s another way to control the gimbal up and down with your fingers.
On the far right side, right below the record button, you can see the camera controls – here you can change the settings for the camera. First off, you can see the switch between auto and manual mode for photos. If you go to manual, you’ll be able to change the ISO between 100 and 3200, the shutter speed and the exposure compensation value, which you can also play with.
The next screen is the camera: here you can pick between the different photography shooting modes – you have a single shot, you have multiple shots, you have AEB, you have a timed shot, a shallow focus shot and panoramic mode, where you can choose between horizontal or vertical panorama.
The last screen gives you more controls for your camera. You can turn on or off the histogram and drag it anywhere on the screen, display camera on screen display – you’ll have all of the useful information about the camera controls directly on the screen. I like to keep this feature on, so I can easily follow my current settings and avoid shooting in different modes by mistake.
The white balance setting gives you a few different modes, so if you’re in a mixed lighting scenario and you don’t want the light constantly changing, you can pick between the modes you have here.
The grid is a pretty cool feature, it displays a grid on your screen so you can keep things in a third – it’s great for framing purposes, and when you put the grid and the diagonals you have a center mark, and your image is cut into thirds, which works great for bracketing photos and generally framing the shots better.
This menu is also where you can format your SD card and reset all of the camera settings, in case you mess them up completely and you want to start fresh.
In the bottom right hand corner you can see the play button, where you can see all of the footage you’ve shot and mark them as favorite if you wish.
The dotted lines with the arrows right next to the record button are the gimbal control – you simply click on the up or down arrows to move the gimbal – this is another way to do it, as I’ve mentioned the previous two methods.
On the top of the screen, you can see the flight information and the current mode that you’re in – right now we’re indoors so we don’t have any GPS lock, so it’s showing the yellow warning text. Once you’re outside, you have GPS lock and you’re good to fly, it will turn green and it will say “good to fly”.
Underneath you can see a small green bar, which is actually your battery level – as you fly it will move to the left and once it reaches the first dot from the line, it means you’re at 30%. The second dot is when you hit 10%, and at that point you shouldn’t be flying anymore and you should have your drone landed immediately.
On the right of the battery level you can see the number of satellites you’re currently connected to, the Wi-Fi strength and the wi-fi channel, and lastly we have the battery level. If you click on it, it goes right into the battery settings, where you can see more data.
The last few things on the screen are on the left – the icon on the top with the DJI logo will take you back to your home screen.
Under that there’s the take off button – if you tap on it, you have to slide your finger to the right once the popup shows and the drone will take off.
Under the take-off button we have the return to home button – this is where you can initiate the return to home function from, which we talked about earlier.
And finally, the icon with the controller is where you can find all of your flying modes. You can choose between 6 different modes:
Normal is your normal flying mode, that you are in right now.
Quickshot mode is a smart mode, which allows you to shoot amazing footage with cinematic composition. Once you select Quickshot mode, you have to draw a shape around the object you want to follow – it can be a person or any other object – once you draw a rectangle around the object, you can choose between 4 different quickshots:
Rocket will ascend with the camera pointing downwards, Dronie will fly backwards and upwards with the camera locked on the subject, Circle will circle around your target, and Helix will fly upwards, spiraling around your subject.
The next mode is Active Track – here, the drone will recognizes objects of different shapes and sizes and will then track them according to what they are and how fast they move. This makes tracking much easier and more reliable. You can track your target from in front or behind, or even circle around it, or just follow your subject from a fixed perspective.
Next we have TapFly. To use it, you simply need to tap your phone screen and the Spark, using vision technology, flies in the direction of your tap or exactly where you tapped while actively sensing obstacles. To be honest this feature is cool, but I found myself almost never using it, apart from trying it a few times in the beginning. Still nice to have though.
Tripod mode is for extra steady shots – just like beginner mode, it will limit the speed of the aircraft, but in return you’ll get some super smooth and cinematic shots, as the camera and the whole drone are extremely stable even when there’s stronger wind.
Lastly, there’s gesture mode, where you can use the Spark’s gesture controls – you can make a frame with your fingers and get your selfie taken, or you can raise your palm and maneuver the drone with your hand movements. All in all, this mode is great to show off in front of your friends a few times, but I don’t use it in my regular flying that often.
And there you have it – those are all the necessary steps you need to take to get your Spark up in the air!
I hope you enjoyed this rather long walkthrough article, and last but not least – I hope it helped you save some precious time with your Spark so you can spend more time flying.
Please do me a huge favor and share this article with somebody who’s looking to learn more about the Spark!
Thanks for reading!