Well, GoPro decided we needed one more versatile camera drone to make our lives less, ehm… Complicated and so released its definitely karmic Karma drone, the first ever drony foray by the company. Like its legion of competitors out there, it comes packing all the goodies we usually expect in -somewhat- premium priced offerings and a few more besides. Except for terrain/collision avoidance and the current rave of the moment -the “follow me” feature, which hopefully is not really deal breakers. Downward facing sensors to help fly the drone better, especially when indoors are also sadly lacking.
Since GoPro is primarily a camera company, the Karma can be considered its version of a flying car sorry camera. If your varied GoPro cameras are gathering dust on the shelves, you might consider putting them to better use on the drone as its camera is user replaceable and endlessly swappable as desired. It comes snuggled in a durable and fully padded backpack with a hand-held steady cam mount. And oh yes, an eye candy controller that feels and looks more like a bigger Nintendo DXL. It is a full-sized quad-copter that is not particularly portable, but is still somewhat collapsible and thus smaller when carried than some of its rivals. Inside the backpack, you get the drone, controller, charger and a hand-held gimbal grip, with all tipping the scales at around a manageable 8 lbs. Carrying the case is made relatively easy with straps at the back for when you want to hoof it down the Oregon trail.
The Karma is chiefly designed to be portable, simple and easy to fly by all ages. And takes just a couple of minutes at the most to unpack and get whirling smartly in the air like an angry hornet. In flight, it is akin to a jumbo jet rather than a fighter jet, so keep the acrobatics and showing-off to a minimum. Both taking off and landing are done via dedicated buttons, and no near-vertical learning curve is needed. The Karma is aided in its come-hither allure chiefly by its controller. As previously mentioned, it’s a gamers’ pipe-dream come gloriously alive. It’s both magically responsive and easy/comfortable to use, while packing a glorious 5-inch 720p LCD screen that obviates the need to connect a smartphone to it like some competitors. The camera controls are on the shoulders, while flight controls are accomplished via the joystick.
The camera is conventionally three-axis gimbaled, frontally mounted and user-customizable as desired. And as can be expected from the best of GoPro’s primary products, it is fab in action. In an interesting addition, sound/audio can be recorded via the camera while airborne. The drone also comes bundled with a bonus; the hand-held Karma grip. You can strip the duo of the gimbal and camera off your prized Karma drone and mount it on this rugged handle for recording videos on this crazy earth at your convenience.
Top speed is 35 MPH, while maximum flight range is 3 KM or so. Flight time is 20-18 minutes only depending on circumstances. When that is exceeded, you get a warning and the drone automatically starts getting back home to its mama-you.
Price is $799 without a camera, or $999 to $1099 when equipped with either the Hero 4 Black or Hero 5 camera respectively.