The New GoPro Karma Looks Like The Most Versatile Drone Yet

GoPro just announced its long-awaited (and long-delayed) flying camera platform: Karma. The folding drone comes in a backpack and features a removable stabiliser as well as a simple controller with a built-in display. It all costs $1195.95 and will be available in a month. All images: GoPro

Nick Woodman, the founder and CEO of GoPro, made a big deal out of the Karma's portability and versatility at an announcement event today. "It's so much more than a drone," Woodman said approximately 3427 times. He's not lying either.

The Karma itself is actually three devices: A quadcopter, a touchscreen controller and a stabiliser that can be removed from the drone's body and used as a steady grip. The stabiliser also attaches to existing GoPro mounts so you could strap it to your chest, go mountain-biking and walk away with nice stable footage. (Woodman bragged about this functionality about a dozen times as well.) In terms of performance, the Karma boasts a maximum speed of 54km/h, a range of one kilometre and 20 minutes of flight time.

Apparently, the backpack is so light you barely notice you're wearing it. Looks very boxy, though.

What seems most innovative about the Karma, however, is the controller set up. Unlike the popular DJI Phantom, you don't need a smartphone to operate the Karma. The small-ish, clamshell-shaped controller features a touchscreen that will show you what the camera is seeing and handle all of the settings in one place. (Yuneec's Typhoon series features a similar touchscreen setup in a much larger package.)

Touch to fly!

GoPro also built something called the Passenger app that effectively lets a second person control the camera while the pilot flies. Anyone who's ever tried to capture the very best drone video while also trying not to crash the damn thing into a tree will understand how cool it would be to have a dedicated camera operator.

GoPro didn't go into too much detail about the various autonomous flight options, but it looks like they do exist. Pre-programmed options like a Dronie or an Orbit take just a couple of taps on the touchscreen display. It's unclear if there's a Follow Me function -- although it would be insane if GoPro didn't offer this to its adventure-loving customer base.

The Karma will work with the new GoPro Hero 5 Black, the Hero 5 Session, as well as the Hero 4 and Hero 3. That $1195.95 price tag only covers the cost of the Karma, controller and backpack. GoPro is offering an $1649.95 option with the Hero 5 Black bundled with the drone or an option with the Hero 5 Session ($US999.99 [$1323], Australian pricing to be announced). That price point makes it a few hundred dollars cheaper than a Phantom 4 and about the same price as the Yuneec Typhoon H, which features six rotors, retractable landing gear and a 4K camera.

The stabiliser features a unique boom-style design, unlike competitors like DJI and Yuneec which use pistol grips.

It seems obvious that GoPro is hoping that the versatility of the Karma system will make it stand out in the increasingly crowded drone market. The portability of a folding drone -- DJI is rumoured to be releasing its own next week -- should play well with the action cam crowd. The built-in stabiliser -- Yuneec released a similar product with the launch of the Typoon Q500 two years ago -- provides some nice added value. And that controller does look beautifully simple.

Of course, whether the Karma lives up to GoPro's lofty promises remains to be seen. The drone starts shipping on October 24, and we plan to stress test the hell out of it. If it's as versatile as it sounds, GoPro might just have a new hit on its hands.



    CASA geeks, what's the legality of a drone like this in Australia?

    Last edited 20/09/16 8:33 am

      For noncommercial and under 2kg flying wight, use you can fly anywhere 3km away from restricted airspace, up to 400ft(120m), the drone must always be visible to the naked eye of the pilot, during daylight hours only and away from a "populus area". There are more rules but if you don't do stupid things generally you are ok.

        Is there a google map or similar of restricted airspace? I'm about 5.8km away from the nearest airport extremities, but have no idea how far away from the airport is controlled airspace.

        Last edited 20/09/16 12:09 pm

        "away from a "populus area". " That one is the kicker for the general public.

        Poorly defined and open to interpretation after the fact (including your back yard, 30m rule)).

        The other rule you forgot is:

        30m from all noninvolved parties (clarification: that is not involved in the actual flying or camera operation, so "subjects" are noninvolved partes) or property.

        Pretty much don't be a goose, fly for fun with landowners permission and don't post videos of you endangering other people, (endanger yourself all you like with crazy antics), if you hurt someone or damage property, you will always loose in court as they are innocent bystanders 3rd parties if you like.

        oh insurance?? .

        For anyone interested in drone cameras you need to be aware of CASA regs (Also ACMA regs)..

        AC-101 (google works) Part 3 is the plain English version of the laws..
        For rhobby fliers:

        For Aspiring Professionals:

        If you like rockets, just get "part 2"

        Oh... have fun. lol.(irony)

      Yo. 29th of September a whole bunch of new rules will be enabled.

      This is great news. :) Commercially speaking too.

        I saw that, the 5.5km from controlled aerodrome is what has me, I think I am but I'd want to see a map to be sure I wouldn't get a fine. I know myself and if basic practising is a pita and can't be done near home it'll get way less use than I'm hoping overall.

        Last edited 21/09/16 7:29 am

      Effective 29 Sept you can fly drones commercially without a licence as long as the drone weight is less than 2kg. Rules apply. Need licence for over 2kg

    I don't think the drone is compatible with Hero 3 as stated in the article. Only the latest models such as Hero 4, Hero 4 Session and Hero 5 models.

      The Hero3 physically fits on the Karma but you don't have control of the camera settings from the remote. So you just have to manually setup and start- stop the camera with the drone on the ground.

        Then get a SOLO.. karma looks slick but there are going to be a lot of broken gimbals...

        And folding arms always have a performance (engineeringly speaking) price-tag.

          The 3dr solo is too big, it's a different class of drone. My understanding is this one's supposed to be a more portable, consumer friendly class of drone.
          I'm looking at this, the Dji Mavic, Yuneec Breeze, or a Xiro Xplorer Mini (if they fix their android app) as something I can fit in a backpack (with other stuff) and go out into the wilderness with.
          The Karma seems mighty expensive compared to the Breeze and rumored prices for the Xplorer Mini, and not all that much better (so far).

Join the discussion!