Action camera maker GoPro made a big push into the air with the Karma drone, but now has to recall all of them after only 16 days in the field.
Last night, lost amid the news of the American election, GoPro snuck out an announcement that they clearly hoped would have as small an audience as possible: after only 16 days on the market and shipping to customers, they are recalling all of the approximately 2500 Karma drones that are out in the field. Apparently, a small number of drones have lost power while in use. For something that flies through the air, this is pretty bad.
As has been proven in the past, drones have the potential be dangerous and need to be treated with respect. In the hands of an experienced operator amazing shots can be created, but reliable equipment is just as important as a safety-conscious operator, since a drone that acts erratically or falls from the sky unpredictably can cause real damage to both people and property. The best case scenario for a drone losing power while in the middle of flight is that it crashes to the ground and is destroyed, but there are obviously much worse situations where it could crash into a person and cause injury. While the Karma only weighs 35.5oz (1006grams), it has a flight ceiling of 14, 500 ft (4500 meters), and if the power cut out at the top of its flight, there is a real danger for objects below. Of course, it is generally illegal to fly over crowds, but the FAA has a proposed set of rules for allowing for some flights over crowds, and many drone operators unfortunately don't always know or follow the rules.
GoPro is working closely with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that they put a safe product in the hands of the public. All Karma owners will be given a full refund while the drone is re-engineered, but you have to return the whole drone, including the Hero5 black and the grip if you purchased it all together in a bundle, even though those elements are not related to the flight power problem. Whether your drone has malfunctioned or not, you are encouraged to return your drone for the full refund immediately.
GoPro announced the recall at 6:30PM EST on November 8, 2016, a time that appears calculated to avoid as much attention as possible for the already struggling company. Sales have been down amid increasing competition in the action camera space, and the move into stabilization and flight with the Karma was hoped to revive the company. However, with the Karma recalled and the recent news that manufacturing issues will lead to limited stock of the Hero5 Black this holiday season, GoPro is in a very tough spot.
For more information on the recall please see the GoPro Recall Site.