Surprise! GoPro's Karma drone is back on sale. GoPro recalled Karma in the run-up to the holidays last year due to instances where drones were losing power mid-flight (not cool, obviously). In early January, the company cryptically "announced" that it would give details on Karma's return in early February.
Many speculated that probably meant we'd see its return later that month, or early spring. Instead, the news, delivered this morning, is simply that it's returning to "select" retailers (no word on which), and GoPro's online store today. International buyers will have to wait just a little longer, with the company only committing to "spring" for non-US customers. The timing isn't that surprising, as GoPro is also announcing its holiday period financial results to shareholders tomorrow.
If you were hoping Karma might get a little upgrade, or a price-cut upon its return to curry favor with potential and previous customers alike, sadly you were wrong. Introducing new functionality at the same time as trying to isolate and fix a problem is probably not wise, any way. Instead, GoPro hunkered down and clocked in thousands of hours of test flights to make sure its fix (a change in the battery clasp mechanism) had done the job.
We also imagine GoPro came under pressure to get the Karma show back on the road/up in the air, so new software features would likely have introduced unacceptable delay. Though, there is the promise of updates later down the line. As for discounts, GoPro already gave early buyers a free Hero 5 camera for the inconvenience of returning their drone.
A few days ago, GoPro added a ($399) "Karma core" item to its online store, which only includes the body, arms, and landing gear (no gimbal or controller or backpack). Today, GoPro's also adding a "Flight Kit" which comes with everything but the Karma Grip and the gimbal (for those that bought them separately) for $599.
It's fair to say that it's been a bumpy ride for GoPro with Karma. When it was first released, it was generally positively received by mainstream technology sites (Engadget included). The hardcore drone-enthusiasts were, well, less enthusiastic. Especially once DJI released its smaller, more featured Mavic Pro causing many industry pundits and forum users to vocally denounce GoPro's debut product in this space. In particular this one scathing review, from a vlogger later spotted working with DJI at CES.
When I spoke with GoPro CEO Nick Woodman last month, he was eager to point out that the hardcore drone crowd have plenty of options they may prefer. The message being that Karma is, essentially, a set of tools for people that want to get the most out of their GoPros. Let's hope that that's enough people to persuade the company to make another one, as right now DJI's pretty much the only big player in the consumer camera-drone game, and that's not good for anyone but DJI.