If you believe the analysts, GoPro is in trouble. It’s quickly losing out to cut-price knock-offs in the action camera market and appears to be pinning its hopes on its forthcoming drone – the GoPro Karma – to help turn things around. So it's not good news that the Karma has just been delayed until Christmas 2016. You can also read the best drones coming in 2016
Update 29 June: YouTube channel PatentYogi has discovered a patent that just just been published. It was filed by a GoPro mechanical engineer before he joined the company. It shows a fold-up drone whose arms and propellers are all self-contained in a rectangular box, and the design could be the best hint yet at what we can expect from the forthcoming GoPro drone. The patent also shows a similar spherical design with fold-out arms.
GoPro Karma drone: Release date
There’s no official date yet, but the Karma was widely expected to launch by the end of the second quarter this year. That would mean it would appear on shelves before the end of June 2016.
Unfortunately, according to the company's latest financial statement, it won't be viable until the Christmas buying season.
GoPro Karma drone: Price
Few details are yet known about the drone, as GoPro is keeping it all firmly under wraps, apart from the teaser video it has released. Price is one of the big unknowns, but the rumour is that the drone won’t come with a camera – you’ll simply clip on your existing Hero 3 or 4.
This should bring the price down, but in order to compete, GoPro will have to price the Karma competitively. The company is late to the party, and chief rival DJI already has a low-cost drone – the Phantom 3 Standard – which has a stabilised camera which you can buy for just £435 on Amazon.
GoPro tried to put together a deal with DJI to get its cameras on DJI’s drones, but apparently wanted too big a cut of the profits and negotiations went sour. Also, putting a GoPro on a drone is far from a novelty: many existing drones already have GoPro mounts, and the 3DR Solo was specifically designed to work with the Hero 3 and 4.
GoPro Karma drone: Specifications and features
Given that we have only the teaser videos to go by, no-one outside of GoPro can be sure of the specifications. It’s very likely that the Karma will be a similar size to a DJI Phantom, and will probably have a similar flight time of 20-25 minutes.
The design of the drone has been kept tightly under wraps, but a patent filed by GoPro mechanical engineer Ryan Goldstein before he worked at GoPro has just been published. It may not relate to the Karma at all, but it could have been one reason why GoPro hired him.
The renders below are from Goldstein's own website, which show how his 'QuadBox' design would look when folded away, and how the arms fold out. The part near the back on top is the battery, which is removable.
Clearly, it's unlikely that the finished Karma drone will have a fixed camera with no gimbal as the QuadBox does, but the enclosed, protected design could well be employed by the forthcoming drone.
The skier in GoPro's official video below throws the drone into the air on the move and it orbits and follows him, so while ‘follow me’ drones aren’t new, not many can be launched on the move.
One of the videos tops out at 1080p, and the other at 4K, but video features will be limited only by the GoPro camera you attach, so it’s no surprise to see plenty of slo-mo footage in the teaser – this is likely upscaled from 1080p to 4K as no current GoPro can shoot 4K at more than 30 frames per second. Even DJI’s Phantom 4 can only shoot slo-mo in 1080p.
As more information comes to light, we’ll update this article.
(Drone icon used in main image created by Patrick McDonnell and used under Creative Commons licence.)