They say good things come in small packages, and in the case of the DJI Spark, “they” are absolutely correct.
At first blush it's easy to dismiss the Spark as a “selfie drone,” or a well-appointed toy designed for the masses. The idea that a drone like this could be used for the fire service seems a little far-fetched.
But the proof is in the pudding.
At $499, it’s hard to argue with the price, and as tiny a package as the Spark comes in, it’s hard to complain about it being bulky. It features the ability to fly with your phone as the controller, use of a separate dedicated controller, or with no controller at all – just using your hands and the gesture control mode. It’s got 15-20 minutes of endurance, and has an on-board 1080p camera, forward and downward-facing obstacle avoidance.
So how would one use this in the fire service? At this price, I can foresee a day that departments with active drone programs issue one of these for each fire engine to have as standard gear.
As a HAZMAT tool, the Spark goes a long way too. Consider the scenario where a truck or train has overturned, and is leaking “methyl ethyl bad stuff” as HAZMAT operators like to say, and you face a decision about whether to put guys in Level A suits to head into a potentially lethal situation, simply to find out what’s down there. Those suits are roughly $1500 - $2500 each, and can take a half an hour or more to get a team suited up.
An alternative method – send in a $499 Spark and read the placard, or even tape PH paper to it, and fly it into the cloud. If you can bring the drone back after reading the placard, fantastic. If you end up putting it into a pool of toxic sludge, you’re out considerably less money than the cost of a Level A suit.
Hey, and it also comes in 5 pretty colors, so if you like options, you’re covered.