GoPro Entering the Drone Market with Karma

The GoPro Karma drone ($800) with the HERO5 Black camera ($400). Photo via GoPro.

Consumers won’t be able to get their hands on GoPro’s new Karma drone until Oct. 23, but that hasn’t stopped the technology company from flaunting its newest contraption through a variety of teaser videos and sponsored reviews.

GoPro officially unveiled its first consumer drone last month, and buyers can expect to shell out more than $800 to get one.

The GoPro Karma and the included controller, which shows video in 720p. Image via GoPro.

Each drone kit comes with the drone itself and six propellers, a stabilizer and harness for shake-free video, a controller that resembles a handheld gaming system, a battery and charger, a mounting ring and a grip handle.

All of the items come in a convenient carrying case.

When the Karma debuts, it will be compatible with GoPro’s HERO4 Black and Silver editions, as well as the HERO5 Black. The drone will also work with the HERO5 Session, which is expected to go on sale in spring 2017.

The latter two options both feature 4k video capabilities, voice control, video stabilization and waterproofing up to 10 meters (approximately 33 feet).

Karma Tech Specs

How does this new line of drones perform? The Karma drone can reach speeds of up to 35 mph with a maximum altitude of 14,500 feet. It weights about 2.2 pounds and can travel up to 1.8 miles while battling winds up to 22 mph.

One key detail GoPro has been particularly hush on is battery life. While GoPro says the Karma can operate for “up to 20 minutes,” reviews of the product claim 18 minutes is the maximum (here and here). The drone takes about one hour to fully charge.

Users will also have to keep in mind that the controller and grip handle also need to be charged up. The controller lasts for about four hours, according to GoPro’s website, and can reach a full charge in 2.5 hours. Meanwhile, the grip handle lasts 1.75 hours and charges in two hours.

Karma Selling Points

GoPro is pushing two selling points with its Karma drone: ease of use and continuity. The drone features auto takeoff and landing modes, an “easy” flight mode and semi-autonomous modes. For example, the drone pilot could set two points on the controller using the drone’s cable-cam mode and Karma will travel in a straight line between them.

GoPro is hoping Karma’s ease of use will win over potential customers who lack drone flying experience.

The Karma controller has two joysticks and three buttons, so it’s relatively easy for someone without flying experience to control.

While less advertised, continuity is likely a reason for many GoPro owners to be excited. To fully understand continuity when it comes to technology, think of Apple: a user can make calls from their iPhone using their Macbook, stream music from an iPhone to an Apple TV or instantly add or share notes, documents, and photos between devices using AirPlay.

Similarly, GoPro users can now clip their Hero cameras to the Karma drone and use the controller GoPro provides instead of downloading a mobile or tablet app. When the user is done shooting video, they can put the footage on a computer and use GoPro’s editing software to produce the final product.

And when you’re finally done, the drone folds up for easy storage or transport.

Why not Karma?

Drones for consumers are still going through early stages of production. As the technology improves, drones will get smaller, lighter and faster. However, there’s already another option for those wanting a little more speed. The Mavic Pro Done, developed by DJI (Dà-Jiāng Innovations), is open for preorders and will ship in mid-October.

The Mavic Pro weighs about half a pound less than its Karma counterpart. Both drones feature a folding feature for easy transport, but there is one key difference: the propellers on the Mavic Pro also fold, unlike on the Karma.

The Karma’s propellers (left) still take up a considerable amount of space when folded. Photo via B&H Photo and Video.

Not only is the Mavic Pro lighter, but it can also reach speeds up to 40 mph, an increase over Karma’s 35 mph. The Mavic Pro can fly for 27 minutes and can travel a maximum of 4.7 miles, more than double what GoPro’s drone can.

DJI’s drone also comes with a camera already included, where as GoPro requires you buy one if you haven’t already. The Mavic Pro starts at $750 without the controller (smartphone app required) or $999 with the controller, but it comes with obstacle avoidance, object tracking and gesture control — three features that Karma lacks.

If you already own a compatible GoPro camera, then the Karma is probably the right choice for you. But if you don’t and feel like spending the extra $200, the Mavic Pro comes with a camera, better specs and more advanced features.