When DJI launched its diminutive Spark drone back in May, a key feature was a set of gesture controls that allowed users to ditch the joysticks and fly it with their hands. The Chinese company has now rolled out a firmware update that adds further functionality, including the ability to stop and start recording with a wave of the arm.
The DJI Spark is fitted with a suite of sensors that enable it to detect objects up five meters (16 ft) away, along with the flapping hands and arms of nearby users. After being launched from the hand, it can be made to fly up and away, snap selfies and come back again all without even touching the remote control.
The new firmware update now allows video recording to be switched on and off mid-flight using the same handsfree approach. Provided they are standing within two meters (6.5 ft) of the drone, users can start recording by raising an arm out to the side at an approximately 45-degree angle to the ground, with LEDs on the front of the drone blinking red to signal recording has begun. Performing the gesture again turns recording off.
DJI has added improvements to some of the Spark's intelligent flight modes, too, such as controlling which direction the drone flies as it autonomously circles a subject or spirals upwards and away. It can also take selfies in so-called Dronie mode from greater heights and should grab smoother footage in Rocket mode, where it flies directly upwards with the camera facing down.
Another new feature is the ability to create 180-degree photo panoramas, which are formed by stitching 21 individual images together. DJI says the drone's flight is also improved through the firmware update, making it more responsive to the remote controller and stronger connection between the remote controller and the aircraft.
The firmware update is available now, though users will also need the latest update for DJI's companion GO 4 smartphone app.