Top 5 reasons why GoPro is exiting the drone business

The once heralded savior product of the company has been abandoned

Cameras Gear News
GoPro Karma Hero5

The Karma offered the allure of capturing your great adventures from the sky.

After entering the drone market in September of 2016, GoPro abruptly announced it was abandoning the effort this month. Here’s why we think it happened.

Here is the promising launch video in typical GoPro fashion.

1. It was an ill-conceived move

In 2016, the drone market looked like it would explode. Anything drone dominated tech news, and consumers seemed to have an appetite for buying one. GoPro, being a public company, needed to grow and they saw drones as an opportunity to get a new revenue stream and more important, sell more GoPro Hero cameras.

The problem is the hype for drone purchasing interest was overblown. And worse, GoPro had no competitive advantage in that market. They did not have much technology, expertise, and experience in creating a very complex device. And there were other players in the industry like DJI that had a 5-year head start on them.

Drone Market

The drone market was seen as explosive back in 2016 when the Karma was launched.

2. It’s tough to fly a drone

We’ve seen the videos. A mountain biker or a kayaker pulls a drone out of his backpack, throws the drone up and the air, goes downhill or downstream, and the drone follows and captures amazing footage. But turns out follow-me drones are from the future, and we are in the very early stages of this scientific endeavor. Mtbr has asked 5 different companies for a demonstration of these abilities and each one backed out after initial discussions.

And even stationary, flying a drone itself is not something everyone can do. It’s a remote-controlled flying machine and it needs experience and expertise to fly it safely. Some can do it well or have the interest to learn, but it’s certainly not for all consumers.

3. You can’t fly them in many places

As the reality of drones hit the mainstream, people realized that they can be dangerous and raise privacy concerns. So they’ve slowly been shut down in most parks and trail systems. Turns out a spinning blade can hurt someone when it falls out of the sky. It usually has a camera, too, so most folks don’t like to be filmed by a device that can go virtually anywhere.

4. Their drone was awful

GoPro’s drone was late in delivery, it didn’t work that well, and it fell out of the sky. It suffered from growing pains of a company with no expertise in the category, rushing their product to market. This 40-minute review by drone expert IPhonedo is hilarious, as it details the inadequacies of the Karma. He was right in his analysis and his review got close to 1 million YouTube views.

GoPro attempted to address these issues and re-released the Karma in 2017. But IPhonedo called it the “second worst drone” he’d ever tested. Video is available here.

5. GoPro is in trouble

GoPro is a public company with impatient investors looking for profit and growth. After all, public money comes along with public scrutiny. GoPro used to make money hand over fist selling $400 POV cameras. The problem is that the heyday is gone, and those who want a POV camera already have one. Technology is not changing that much anymore to warrant a significant investment.

GoPro Stock

GoPro stock has tumbled from $90 to around $6 as of mid-January 2018.

So GoPro cannot continue to invest millions in a product that does not have a rosy revenue outlook. It’s an unfortunate turn of events since GoPro employs a lot of people and they’ve been active in the mountain bike category for the last decade. But it was a troubled product in a difficult category.

That’s our take. What do you think?

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Oleksii says:

    Who gives a s…t about some drone…

  • Cameron says:

    I traveling back in 2012 and bought a GoPro while overseas. I was stoked to finally have the camera everyone raved about. What was originally excitement turned to disappointment as experience after experience I failed to capture due to malfunction of the batteries and the camera itself.

    GoPro was never and still is not a camera company. They took some BS Chinese made camera that was not fit for purpose and which they charged a fortune for. All but the very latest (I’m going by their marketing material) model had extremely poor low light performance, overheated, destroyed memory cards or discharged the battery even while switched off. In their defence they made some decent cases but their major factor for their success was the marketing material which their users provided for free. On that topic, I call bulls##t on the early crystal clear underwater footage used in their videos. If those videos were taken with a GoPro, I’m a monkey’s uncle!

    GoPro is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with marketing driven companies who don’t place enough importance in engineering. I had this argument so many times with people who seemed to believe that marketing was the most important thing. It’s not and it shouldn’t be. Producing a great product with great support should be front and foremost. Instead GoPro’s gift to early adopters was to ignore the existing problems and move on to the next absurdly expensive replacement which had many of the same problems.

    Yeah, you fool people for a time, but eventually it’ll go full circle and people will start calling you on your BS and unfortunately people will lose their jobs and investors will lose their capital. I thought I was going mad back when no one could see GoPro for what they were – a bunch of camera charlatans.

  • Cholla says:

    Wellsaid Cameron, totally agree with your statement…

  • Sean says:

    Well written, Cameron, I too was always underwhelmed by the product returned from a VERY expensive kids movie camera with NO preview screen (or at least a laser that pointed to the center of the frame.) Gotta change with the times, GoPro, you kind of rode your initial success too long I think.

  • Lou says:

    Why are you NOT BANKRUPT ALREADY LOL LOL JUNK JUNK JUNK

  • Lou says:

    Just like at their 6.00 share stock a JOKE GOPRO finally had people catch on to them
    as a JOKE OF A COMPANY HEY GOPRO Ill be there when you sell all you junk for scrap LMAO

  • Jim says:

    Since you guys are bashing the GoPro….what do you recommend instead?

  • John Mathew says:

    gopro karma was the worst drone I ever got, since DJI and parrot are in the market. gopro karma is nothing but waste of money. You could get a lot of better drones is same price with better camera and flight time.

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