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First look: DJI's $499 Spark drone is a portable, affordable iPhone-connected flying camera

Aiming to simplify aerial footage for the masses, DJI on Wednesday unveiled its latest creation, the handheld Spark drone, which combines portability with simple gesture controls and an affordable $499 starting price.

The DJI Spark was announced at a media presentation at New York City's Grand Central Terminal, where Michael Perry, DJI's director of strategic partnerships, made the case for a flying camera for the masses. AppleInsider was there live to get a closer look.

In his presentation, he noted that selfies and close up shots with smartphones are convenient, but lack the ability to capture the full picture. The DJI Spark aims to bridge that gap with dead-simple gesture controls intended for use within 10 feet.

Using a safety net to ensure no issues within the bustling transportation hub, DJI showed how simple movements with a user's arm or hand your arm can issue commands to the Spark. While footage starts up close, the flying camera will move 10 feet away and get a wider shot if the user simply waves their hand at the device.

The Spark is small enough to fit in your hand, and that's even how it lands in gesture mode.

For further distances, users can rely on their iPhone and DJI's dedicated app, which allows flying and live video footage from up to 109 yards away. Even further distances are capable with a dedicated physical controller, which also connects to an iPhone, but is sold separately from the $499 starting price.

As part of Wednesday's demonstration, DJI also revealed a new app, dubbed Go 4, that aims to make it easier to edit and share clips recorded with the Spark. The simplified smart feature appears similar to Apple's Memories function in Photos for iOS 10.

DJI is also focusing on personalization with the Spark, offering it in five different, bright colors: blue, green, yellow, red, and white. Despite its small size, DJI says the Spark will offer up to 16 minutes of active flight time, with a top speed of 31 miles per hour in sport mode.

The Spark is also compatible with a range of DJI accessories, including the company's 3D goggles, which allow first-person flight views.

Optional additional accessories, beyond the controller and goggles, include a battery charging hub and propeller goggles.

The unit itself features a 12-megapixel camera capable of 1080p stabilized video. The camera is mounted on a mechanical gimbal for stabilization, and the lens itself has a 1/2.3-inch image sensor.

For safety, the unit features a 15-foot sensing range for obstacle avoidance, and 98-foot vision positioning range. It also includes GPS/GLONASS dual satellite positioning, and auto return-to-home and precision landing.

The ultraportable drone weighs 300 grams and measures 143 by 143 millimeters, with a height of 55 millimeters. Preorders are being taken now at DJI for $499.00 with tax included, and the first orders will ship in mid-June. B&H is also accepting orders with free expedited shipping and no tax outside NY and NJ.