I always thought a drone take off/landing mat was a total waste of time and money, however after a recent experience down the beach I have changed my mind.
The DJI Spark mini drone doesn’t have any landing gear, and when it is on the ground there is a few millimetres clearance between the ground and the underside of the drone. On smooth tarmac, short grass or dry mud this is not a problem but if the ground is wet and dirty, there is long grass or the ground in uneven you may run in to a few problems. Another situation where you will run in to problems, and I can personally vouch for this, is at the beach and other sandy environments. I also suspect the same problems will occur in dusty environments, although I have yet to fly my Spark in these conditions so I cannot personally verify this.
When I was flying my Spark at the beach I decided to carry out a ground take off, which was a big mistake. As I started the drone the propellers jumped in to life and sand was blown everywhere, including all over the Spark. The Spark is quite enclosed, however there are some open and vulnerable places – like the gimbal. I am guessing that particles of sand in the gimbal isn’t going to do it any good……..
This was my first mistake. After flying the Spark around for a bit it was time to bring it back home, and that’s when I made mistake number 2. Yep, mistake number 2 was landing the Spark on the sandy ground after the flight. Once again, bring the Spark to ground saw sand particles blown around all over the place. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any choice in the landing and the sandy beach was the only place.
From my experience at the beach I now see that a take-off/landing mat is not just to keep the underside of the Spark clean and mud free, but to also stop little dust, dirt and sand particles blowing all over the drone and potentially damaging it.
The DJI Spark is a tiny drone and whilst it is tempting to have a landing mat with a surface area that is a tiny bit bigger than the Spark itself a mat this size is not sufficient. To ensure the Spark cannot blow sand particles, dust particle and dirt around you are going to need a mat that is at least twice the surface area of the Spark. To be on the safe side I use one bigger still.
You can buy circular take off/landing mats that are blue or orange in colour with an “H” embossed in the middle but I would not recommend these. These mats not only attract attention but they are cheaply made, poor quality, susceptible to being blown away and are a total waste of money. A better alternative take off/landing matt that is not only stronger, more durable, heavier and less susceptible to being blown around by the wind but it is cheaper too. The alternative mat I use as a take-off/landing mat is a rubber car mat.
If you prefer to palm launch and palm land your Spark a take-off/landing probably isn’t going to be of that much use to you. If, however you are not overly keen on palm launches and landings a pad is an essential bit of kit.