DJI's new $499 Spark drone offers gesture controls, compact design [Gallery]

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The Spark, a new pint-size drone from Chinese manufacturer DJI, was announced yesterday at an event in New York's Grand Central station. It's called Spark and is a "mini drone", DJI says.

The Spark automatically enters Gesture Mode when it takes off from the hand.

The small camera drone can take off from the palm of your hand and automatically goes on Gesture Mode, which features PalmControl, allowing you to control the gadget with hand movements.

If you don't want to use your hands, though, Spark can also be operated by a remote controller or mobile device.

The drone also has four automated camera moves called QuickShot built into its programming including Helix, which flies up and away into a series of spirals, Dronie which flies up and away from a subject and Circle which flies just as its name suggests-in circles around you.

DJI updated the controller app for the Spark, which not only enables some autonomous flight modes, but makes it easier to edit your videos afterwards.

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The drone will be sold in five different colors: White, blue, green, red and yellow.

The Spark doesn't stop there: you get some of the modes you'll find on DJI's top-end consumer drones, including ActiveTrack and TapFly. QuickShot is a mode that lets you capture cinematic shots without doing anything.

To get started, you tap on your subject in the preview screen, and your Spark flies an automated path for a minute and generates a 10-second clip for immediate sharing.

It can reach speeds of 31 miles per hour (50 kph) and altitudes up to 26 ft (8 m). Spark will also be compatible with DJI Goggles for FPV flying. Spark's camera has a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor that shoots 12 megapixel photos and stabilised HD 1080p videos, and allows for 720p live video transmissions. The Spark also has a two-axis gimbal and DJI's UltraSmooth technology to help reduce shake and provide smooth cinematic shots. Pano Mode takes horizontal or vertical panoramas, automatically adjusting the drone's flight to capture enough still images to stitch together cleanly. It ships on June 15 and is available for preorder now.

Spark's FlightAutonomy system consists of the main camera, a downward-facing vision system, a forward-facing 3D Sensing System, dual-band GPS and GLONASS, a high-precision inertial measurement unit and 24 powerful computing cores.

DJI's other drone products are typically popular among professionals, such as photographers and videographers, who are willing to spend big bucks on high-end equipment. It also tops out at 16 minutes of continuous flight before the battery need a charge. The basic kit, which includes the drone, battery, charger and three sets of propellers will cost £519. A "Fly More Combo" adds an additional battery, remote control and other accessories, and will retail for $1,199.