GoPro, the famous manufacturer of high definition video cameras, is making its own drone! According to people familiar with the plans, the company will release a line of consumer quadcopter with HD cameras sometime in late 2015, with a price range of about $500-$1,000. The Wall Street Journal reported this news initially and while details are still scarce, it is an exciting new development that demonstrates how mainstream quadcopters and consumer drones have become.
For anyone following the growth of the consumer quadcopter market, GoPro’s presence in the field is nothing new. GoPro video camera (specifically the HERO2 and the HERO3+) were integral to the success of the ready-t0-fly video enabled quadcopter; the DJI Phantom had a GoPro mount, and the small, compact, rugged, and simple design of GoPro’s cameras made them perfect for aerial videography. True, there are plenty of cheaper video quadcopter options out there – a Hubsan X4 with an integrated camera, or a Parrot AR.Drone for instance, but the video quality on those models was poor; enough to get you excited about the idea of filming from the air, but not enough to really publish the video or do anything professional with the footage. Of course, there has also always been a higher end segment of aerial videography, with compact DSLRs being flown by hexacopters and octocopters, and they put the video quality of the GoPro to shame. But those rigs are expensively, heavy, and much more complicated to fly than a DJI Phantom with GoPro. For a vast majority of the market, the GoPro offered the perfect balance – great quality footage at an affordable price point.
In the last year, the popularity of quadcopters and aerial drones used for videos has risen significantly. Along with that, the platform that utilized the GoPro most heavily started to release models that weren’t based on those cameras. The DJI Phantom Vision and the Phantom Vision+ both featured proprietary cameras, rather than mounts for GoPros or other compact digital cameras. Whether it was an intentional move by DJI to claim more of the potential profits in the market, or simply a smart move based on design and development considerations, it had profound impacts on GoPro – if the trend continued, GoPro would effectively be shut out of most of the consumer quadcopter market, since DJI has such a presence in it.
GoPro must have recognized this and started to put in place (or accelerate if it already existed) a plan to create its own aerial video platform. This is a pretty big departure for the company. Until now, it has focused only on building and marketing the cameras, mounts, and a few other related accessories. Taking on the design of a full quadcopter is a huge initiative, and well outside the company’s traditional expertise. GoPro has significant resources though – it is a $9 billion company with nearly 900 employees, and it will almost certainly staff up significantly to take on this project.
What type of features will the new GoPro quadcopter have? It is still too early to tell (and a lot can change in a year!) but I’m putting my money on full 4K video capabilities, live HD streaming, auto-follow technology, collision avoidance, and great battery life. Given the company’s HERO line of video cameras, I think the GoPro drone will be an extremely attractive and well-designed piece of hardware with intuitive controls and top-notch software. And of course, there will be a full on marketing campaign to go along with it!
There’s no hard date for the GoPro quadcopter release date, but once we know more we’ll be updating this post accordingly. And of course, when the GoPro drone does come out, check back for our full GoPro quadcopter review! Until then, check out our Best Quadcopters page for the best drones on the market now, and let us know what you think about this development in the comments below!