What GoPro's Karma Will Need to Win the Drone Wars

By Markets Fool.com

Image source: GoPro.

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The Karma drone from GoPro (NASDAQ: GPRO) is coming sometime this fall. But producing a device just as good as other drones isn't going to be enough -- GoPro's product has to be better than the competition and at a compelling price.

That could be a challenging task when going up against drone giants like DJI and Parrot, as well as the other smaller players that have entered the market.

What we need to see from the Karma

Not all drones are created equal, but there are a few "must haves" for the Karma when it comes out.

  • Compactness: Most drones aren't exactly easy to transport without a specially designed carrying case. If the Karma is easy to transport, that could be a big plus. Earlier this year, Patent Yogi revealed a compact drone design from a designer now working at GoPro: It was a rectangular box with motor arms that extend from the body, making for a compact, transportable design.
  • Predefinable flight path: Users of the GoPro drone will want the ability to design flights in advance on a phone or tablet. Most modern drones can fly predefined routes and return to their home position before running out of battery. And an intuitive interface for users will be necessary to make this something people use regularly.
  • Tracking: Some sort of tracking ability is almost a requirement for the Karma. DJI has a visual tracking feature that allows the pilot to pick a person or destination and have the drone follow the point automatically. Other designs have a wearable device the drone can follow automatically.
  • Obstacle avoidance: If the Karma can't avoid obstacles automatically that'll be a huge disappointment. This has become an almost standard feature for drones today.

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There's also the question of controls. Some drones use smartphone controls and some use a joystick device, which improves control and extends range. There's no standard set for GoPro here, given how young the drone industry is, but if its control interface isn't intuitive, that will limit the market for the Karma very quickly.

Image source: GoPro.

Can GoPro bring Omni to the skies?

More and more drones today are coming with cameras integrated, which allows users to see where they're flying and what they're taking video of. Integrating either a new GoPro or a Hero 5 is likely in the Karma, but GoPro could offer additional options as well.

The Omni is GoPro's 360-degree rig, whihc allows users to capture immersive virtual-reality video. The images it captures are really meant to be seen with a VR headset or on GoPro's VR app, but If you look closely at the image above, you can see that it's an Omni image taken from either a drone or a helicopter. There are also Omni drone videos starting to appear on the GoPro VR app. Those kind of images would be game-changers for drones, and give a huge advantage to GoPro in the market.

Tackling the drone market

GoPro has had a lot of success in action cameras partly because its products were very simple and durable. If the company can craft something similar in the drone market, it'll have a hit on its hands. But given that there are so many unknowns about the Karma right now, investors are essentially betting Nick Woodman and team can get the design of the product right.

If they can, drones could become a billion-dollar business for GoPro almost overnight. And that could drive sales of other its products like Omni and Hero5, making this product an even bigger deal for investors.

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Travis Hoium owns shares of GoPro. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GoPro. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.