GoPro launches its Karma drone

Written by Simon Wyndham

GoPro The new GoPro Karma: due out late October

Karma chameleon no more: At what turned out to be a very Apple-inspired keynote event (right down to “One more thing”), GoPro announced the long-awaited Hero 5 cameras and Karma drone.

More on the Hero 5 later, but first the GoPro Karma.

The event was a fairly short affair, but gave the news that GoPro fans had long been awaiting. The world and his dog had been waiting to discover what the company had up it’s sleeve. More than any other gadget, the Karma has been the source of a constant ‘will they won’t they?’ speculation for a very long time now.

So has the wait been worth it? On the surface the new product doesn’t offer anything earth shattering. However, in a further nod to Apple, what it has seemingly done is to package everything well together as a nicely thought-out system

For starters the new drone packs up very small (14.4 x 8.8 inches), with propellors attached, into the supplied backpack case. An essential ability for the GoPro ethos of appealing to adventure sports enthusiasts and athletes. The camera is mounted to a three-axis gimbal, which is positioned extending from the front. This serves two practical purposes. The first is to help the size when folding it up for storage. The second is that it keeps the camera well away from the propellors, which in turn keeps them well out of shot; a problem that DJI Phantom owners will be all too familiar with.

Landing gear, too, is small, and folds up to keep the profile low in the case. This is a drone built for portability.

The transmitter is similarly well thought-out, itself folding into a nice neat clamshell style box for storage. Unfolded it sports a large touchscreen ground station and live view. The camera can also be independently controlled via an iPad held by an assistant.

To add further value for the money, the package is rounded off with the inclusion of a handle that can be connected to the gimbal for ultra stable shots from helmets, mountain bikes, or pretty much anything you care to mention! The handle can be affixed to any standard GoPro mounting clip, so the world is your oyster when it comes to mounting it in places. It is not clear whether the gimbal and handle are waterproof, although the demonstration footage shows it being used near water and in very dusty conditions. Perhaps coincidentally, GoPro is soon to be introducing its own GoPro Care warranty system.

In terms of capabilities the Karma does not offer the sorts of automation that many were hoping for. To my mind this is a good thing, because they would have been illegal in most countries. Instead there are modes for preprogrammed flight paths to assist novices, such as aerial dolly moves, circular paths etc.

The usual safety features such as return to home are also present. It isn’t the fastest drone at 35mph top speed. However with a wind resistance rating of 22mph, this gives the DJI Inspire a run for it’s money. Weight wise it comes in at an incredibly light 1006 grams (1.7kg including the battery and gimbal), and with an endurance of around 20 minutes, this would certainly put it on par with the best on the market.

The Karma is of course compatible with the new Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session cameras, but can also be fitted with the older Hero4 Black Edition as well. Older GoPro owners are out of luck.

The biggest surprise about the Karma is it’s price. At $799 (£719) for the Drone system without a camera, it would appear to represent very good value for money. $999 gets you the Karma with a Hero5 Session, while $1099 buys you the system with a Hero5 Black.

The popularity of the GoPro systems could spell more problems for the various aviation authorities however, as more and more people who are not aware of the regulations for flying, and importantly the regulations for commercial use, take to the air. One can only hope that GoPro, with all its influence, will help to educate people on the safe and responsible usage of such equipment.

The Karma will be available on October 23rd.

Tags: Production

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