The long-awaited unveiling of GoPro’s first drone, Karma, will occur in less than three weeks according to the company’s Twitter feed which included a short video today announcing the first time the world will see this new product (first new product since the Hero 4 camera in nearly two years) from the action camera maker. GoPro has for all intents and purposes said nothing about the Karma except that they were building it.
GoPro has had quite the ride since announcing the Karma drone
GoPro Inc (NASDAQ:GPRO) by definition has had quite a few wild rides on the helmets of skydivers, the handlebars of mountain bikers and countless more examples but I was actually speaking to the company’s stock price. The confirmation that GoPro would be producing its own drone rather than simply seeing its cameras mounted on a number of drone offerings from companies like DJI and Parrot (yes, I know they have their own internal cameras as well) came in May of 2015 at the Code Conference.
It was there that consummate “wouldn’t you be better off with a backpack and surfboard?” CEO Nick Woodman told the world that the company was working on “the ultimate GoPro accessory.” It was then and there that we also learned that the Karma drone would be released in the first half of 2016. Well, that clearly didn’t happen but you can hardly blame the company’s beach bum CEO for suggesting it as GoPro was trading at about $53 when the announcement was made. If you’re still holding GoPro stock from May of 2015 at $53 you’re likely kicking yourself right now. Let’s not forget that GoPro went public at around $35 in June of 2014 before quickly beginning its ascent to its historic high of $89.67 by September of the same year.
So in May 2015, when the Karma was announced, $53 wasn’t instilling customer confidence but a new product announcement did see it heading upwards like a drone. And that was about the last time the company’s stock would trend up, today GoPro closed its day at $14.53.
Again, it’s been a wild ride, but the company is finally, and seemingly, ready to show us what it’s been working on and what the wait has been about. Last week, when GoPro announced that it would begin to produce its own shows and following an interview with Woodman, Variety announded that “GoPro is expected to officially unveil its next-generation consumer camera, dubbed the Hero 5, in the coming weeks.”
I think it’s a reasonably safe assumption that we will see the flagship Hero 5 unveiled on September 19 alongside the Karma Drone.
— GoPro (@GoPro) September 1, 2016
So what do we know about the GoPro’s Karma?
Absoulutely nothing. It’s as if Woodman and GoPro have stolen a page from Steve Jobs/Tim Cook and Apple. The occasional rumor? Sure. Anything concrete? Anything at all? Absolutely not, squat, bupkis. Nothing from the supply chain, no photos, not even drunken bragadoccio from an engineer working on the project trying to impress someone.
But we do know what it needs to do if it’s to compete with DJI and Parrot. It’s going to need to turn heads and at a comparable price point or the company shouldn’t expect to chop into either companies’ (along with others) market share.
Drones, including those by DJI and Parrot, are not particularly compact. In fact, they are bulky and frankly a bit of a pain in the ass if you were traveling or walking. In February, Patent Yogi showed designs for a drone that was compact and folded up quite nice. The engineer responsible is presently working at GoPro in what we can only imagine the Karma division. If he was able to apply this to GoPro’s first drone, well, the company might just have something.
I’m not drone expert, but I know enough to know that the Karma will need to be able to fly a preset flight path programmed either via tablet or smartphone. It’s a standard feature and GoPro will be laughed at if it can’t provide. Additionally, it’s going to need a handy app to work that out or its dead in the water.
Obstacle avoidance is also a must as is the ability to track an object through the aforementioned app or with a tracking device worn by the user is key. Anything else would spell failure as well.
But what about a game changer?
That’s easy, the best integrated camera in the drone market would certainly stand out on its own.
But, GoPro can even do better. Assuming that the Karma will comfortably carry the Hero 5 is a start but a badass Hero 5 would really go a long way towards helping sales of both products.
But even better yet? The ability to get the Omni into the skies. The Omni is GoPro’s 360-degree rig and that would be a true game changer for the Karma as VR becomes more and more common place and demanded by viewers around the world.
We shall see on September 19.