GOPRO has designed the Karma to be almost idiot-proof. And, as an idiot who had a chance to try one, it passed with flying colours.
There are plenty of people who are very serious about very serious drones. I’m not one of them.
When it comes to drones, and more specifically my ability to fly them, I’m a joke. If they give out nicknames to drone pilots, I’m less Maverick and more Crash and Burn.
Even my first interaction with a GoPro Karma was not the thing I’ll be boasting of.
This week I’ve been testing GoPro gear at Byron Bay, including the only two Karma drones in the country. And by testing I mean nearly treading on one.
“Watch out,” the helpful GoPro staff member yelled out as I was staring up at a Karma drone demonstration in the sky while nearly stepping on the Karma parked on the ground behind my feet.
The GoPro Karma drone comes in a very cool case that’s part briefcase and part backpack. To give an idea of the size of this bag, when needing to take two to Mexico, one enterprising GoPro staff member strapped two together with duct tape, so they counted as one carry-on bag, and combined they were still small enough to fit within carry-on limitations.
Inside the bag is the drone, the controller, the battery, some spare batteries and a gimbal, which is particularly notable.
The drone is likely to have a novelty factor for some and not get regular use but the gimbal is something you can use without the drone. Think of it as a steady cam handle for a GoPro.
You pop the drone out of the bag and set it up. That means inserting the battery, folding the legs down and clicking the four arms into the locked position. That all takes about 30 seconds.
The Karma remote looks like a cross between a portable DVD player and a small game console.
Pop the lid up and you have a touch control screen, while the main part has a knob for each thumb. There are buttons on the edge of the controller that start and stop recording and change the angle of the camera.
Before taking my first flight, I took my first virtual flight, running through a program on the controller that mimics the real thing.
There is a button to take off and a button to land. There are also four modes: reveal mode (flies in a straight line while slowly panning); orbit mode (flies around a central point at a certain altitude while keeping the camera directed at the object); cable cam (flies repeatedly between two points) and dronie (the drone shoots out and back to you while taking a picture).
The drone doesn’t have a crash detection mode but if it goes outside of the range it will automatically start to return.
And when you do want to return it to you, you hit a button. You can choose to have it return to its starting point or to you, which if you have moved while the drone has been in flight will be a different location.
When it’s automatically returning, you need to keep an eye on the flight path so you can negotiate it around any obstacles like trees.
There are some things that other drones offer that are missing from GoPro. You can’t program this to follow you around as you walk or run.
But, for the general consumer, this has a big advantage over other drones: the GoPro name. In Australia, GoPro’s brand awareness is bigger than anywhere else in the world.
The early word from GoPro was that the drone would not be out in Australia before Christmas and that would have been a big blow.
But that’s not the case. Karma will be available in select stores and online at gopro.com on October 23.
While keen drone users are likely to compare the Karma with other brands and models, those looking at stepping into the drone market as newbies will point to the reassurance of the GoPro name.
The Karma has a maximum speed of 56km/h, a range of 1km and a maximum height of 4500m. The battery has a 20 minute life so you might want to have two.
So, what’s it like to fly? It’s easy. Very easy. And I didn’t even come close to crashing it.
Karma without a GoPro camera will cost $1196 or with the Hero 5 Black for $1650.