Crisis Mode: The Disaster that is the GoPro Karma Drone

The GoPro Karma drone

GoPro is a company in crisis, and that does not bode well for the future of U.S. drone manufacturers.

Investors breathed a sigh of relief and saw hope on the horizon when action-camera company GoPro announced the release of their new Karma drone earlier this year. The Karma was seen as a innovative upstart that could be easily transported by users. Analysts expected it to drive new life into the company which had seen its stock price plummet in recent months.

Then the sky started falling. Or more accurately, GoPro Karma drones started falling out of the sky.

In fact, so many GoPro Karma drones started falling out of the sky that the company was forced to recall all of the 2,500 Karma units the company had sold to date. There is no word on whether the product will be re-introduced into the marketplace.

The mistake that GoPro made was attempting to launch a highly-sophisticated product which was not within their realm of core expertise. Further complicating the landscape was GoPro's failure to conduct a beta testing program for the new product.

"People think it is so easy to build a small, autonomous drone. It's really not," says Michael Blades, a drone industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan. "DJI is a drone company. [GoPro] is a camera company. It doesn't surprise me that they are having technical problems with their first drone product, even after the delays. That's actually to be expected."

"This is the learning curve that DJI and Yuneec have already been through," says Colin Snow, CEO of Skylogic Research. "It’s the kind of thing that happens with your first generation of drone. The problem for GoPro is, they are still learning, while the competition has grown up."

GoPro's failure, along with the demise of 3D Robotics' consumer drone business, showed American startups struggling to keep pace with their Chinese rivals. "It knocks the US out of the market," said Snow. "Engineering in the US, forget about it. We’ll have to stick to software."

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