GoPro Inc (GPRO) Preps To Unveil Karma Drone: The Gloves Are Off

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GoPro Inc (NASDAQ:GPRO)  is set to unveil its Karma drone on September 19, but until then, speculations continue to swirl. The action camera maker needs a blockbuster product to regain Wall Street’s confidence after the flub with the Session camera. It also needs another product category in which to build new streams of revenue in what has thus far been only a niche category.

Consumer drones taking over

In a note dated September 13, Sougherty & Company analysts Charles Anderson and Jessica McHugh highlighted this year’s InterDrone trade show in Las Vegas, which was held last week. While attending the show, one thing they were particularly struck by was the emergence of the consumer-focused drone at price points below $500. They believe 2017 will be the year of the consumer drone as this sub-category could drive growth in the drone market overall. They report that most of the drones that were priced below $500 feature 4K video capabilities.

They also said that the industry participants they spoke with indicated that consumer drones at the sub-$500 price point could drive more than 3 million units on their own next year, compared to the 3 million total industry volume expected this year. Last year, there were 2 million drones sold. In other words, drones at the consumer price point could push total industry levels above the 6 million unit level, perhaps more than doubling this year’s number.

GoPro to face off with consumer-friendly Breeze

One product the Dougherty team especially liked was Yuneec’s Breeze, which was priced at $499 and is controlled by a smartphone app rather than an expensive joystick. They described the Breeze as “the most consumer-friendly drone” they have ever seen. It features multiple semi-autonomous mode, including a “selfie mode,” which tells the drone to fly on its own to a certain height and distance from the user where it then takes their picture. The “follow me” mode is similar, but instead of taking a picture, the drone follows the user on its own.

Anderson and McHugh added that the Breeze is expected to get up to 10 feet of shelf space at Best Buy for the holiday shopping season, which is about one-third of the total shelf space the drone category is expected to get at the retailer’s stores.

Interestingly, drone leader DJI wasn’t at InterDrone, but it is expected to show off its own low-cost entry called the Mavic by the end of the year.

Will GoPro’s Karma drone be too expensive?

GoPro is set to unveil its Karma drone on Monday, and the Dougherty team said views on the drone at InterDrone were mixed. Some felt the company wouldn’t be able to compete with the Breeze or Mavic because the Karma will likely be priced over $500 without a camera. That would mean that to add an after-market 4K GoPro camera, the price would be boosted to between $900 and $1,000. However, others felt that the company’s brand, distribution network and installed base of cameras that are ready to be attached to a drone will be enough to set the stage for a strong ramp.

Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz said recently that he’s very interested in seeing what GoPro’s Karma looks like. He had been concerned before that it would be too much like DJI’s Phantom 3, but now that he has seen the company’s witty teaser videos, he thinks it could end up being a game-changer.

Shares of GoPro edged higher by about 2% on Wednesday, climbing as high as $13.25 during regular trading hours.

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