Last fall, GoPro’s Karma came out of the gate with a lot of potential, but things quickly went south. Within the first couple of weeks, a handful of reports came in saying that the drones could spontaneously fall out of the sky. GoPro issued an immediate recall of every Karma sold.
As of Wednesday, the drone is once again available at GoPro.com and at some retailers. GoPro says that "initial shipments will be limited but production is expected to ramp quickly," and that the Karma will be available internationally in the spring.
The problem, as it turns out, was pretty simple. The latch that kept the battery clicked in wasn’t working: the drone’s vibrations could cause the battery to shake loose from its cradle just enough to break the electrical contact. Once that happened, the drone would immediately lose power and kamikaze to the ground. The camera, however, had its own battery and would continue recording, which is why we had lots of point-of-view videos of the failure.
GoPro says that "a redesigned battery latch has been incorporated into the updated Karma drone to solve the issue."
I spent some time with the Karma before it was recalled, and overall, I liked it. It was capable of producing incredible imagery, it was intuitive and easy to use, the remote had a built-in screen, and you could detach the drone’s gimbal (dubbed the Grip) and use it as a handheld stabilizer for your GoPro.
Of course, the Karma still faces stiff competition in the drone market. DJI’s Mavic Pro is smaller, lighter, and more portable than the Karma, and it has built-in obstacle avoidance and follow modes. Really the only downside is that DJI's drone image quality isn’t as good. With the relaunch, GoPro teased that "new Karma functionalities will be available via software updates in the future." Let’s hope they’re some good ones.
The Karma will retail for $800. If you’d like it bundled with a new, top-of-the-line GoPro Hero5 Black it will be $1,100. For those who already bought a Karma Grip (the camera stabilizer) separately, GoPro will be selling a drone-only Flight Kit for $600 starting in April.