GoPro Karma drones have been on the fritz all over the world thanks to a possible GPS glitch.
The issue appears to be related to last year’s clock rollovers in the GPS and GLONASS satellite systems, something most drone and GPS tech companies remedied ahead of time with software updates. GoPro, however, has not updated the Karma since it was discontinued in September of 2018. Many have likened the GPS drama to the Y2K bug, only with less hysteria.
Gizmodo’s Rhett Jones explained the issue back in March last year.
GPS was originally designed to timestamp signals using a system that counts weeks using a 10-digit field that tops out at 1024 weeks (~19.7 years). It expresses the time of a signal sent by satellite in weeks and seconds into the week.
For a few reasons, a GPS receiver on the ground has to take that signal and calculate the current date as part of the processes it uses to determine location. Once that ten digit field in legacy GPS devices fills up it resets to zero, and that could cause problems.
According to a memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “a nanosecond error in GPS Time can equate to one foot of position (ranging) error,” so you can see how an error of 19.7 years could be a bloody enormous problem for navigation.
Affected owners have described flashing GPS errors on their controllers and are unable to calibrate the device’s compass. Despite various troubleshooting steps, no one seems to be able to fly them at all. GoPro has addressed the glitch in a number of responses on Twitter, stating that it’s aware of the issue and is working on a solution. No timeframe for a fix has been given at the time of writing.
Launched in 2016, the Karma is GoPro’s first and only foray into the drone world, and it’s been a tumultuous one. Some units fell out of the sky at launch thanks to a failure in the battery hatch’s design, prompting a recall.
GoPro says it will issue an updated to Karma owners as soon as one’s available. Hang tight, folks.