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.
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.
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?