Of all the drones tested and used so far, the GoPro Karma is one of the easiest to fly. It has an intuitive, super user-friendly, controller with an incorporated screen that does not require a smartphone.
Sadly, it does not have obstacle-avoidance sensors and it isn’t as portable as its main competitor, the DJI Mavic Pro. However, one of the strongest assets of this drone is the camera. The GoPro Karma was first delivered with the GoPro Hero5 black back in 2016 (and GoPro conducted a massive product recall due to power failures). The unit we tested out, came with the new GoPro6 Black.
You can remove the gimbal out of the Karma and use it separately from the drone for stabilized handheld shooting. This feature is a bang for the buck: the Karma ships with the handheld Karma Grip, so you can use both the gimbal and the camera without the drone.
Let’s start straight: the GoPro Karma is the easiest long range drone to fly. It has a quick setup, intuitive controls and it doesn’t need to be paired with a smartphone because it has a built-in 5-inch 720p LCD screen on the controller. Bravo!
It has all the standard Auto Shot Paths (intelligent flight modes), shoots excellent stills and videos thanks to the state of the art GoPro Hero6 Black and a “decent” battery life.
Saw the brackets between the the “decent” battery life in the section before? Decent means decent… but not enough! The GoPro guys didn’t make it here. The drone’s battery is made to last up to 20 minutes; at least is what GoPro features officially.
The Karma gives you a 17-18 minute estimate of life when you take off, which are real ONLY with minimal altitude changes and manoeuvring. As soon as you put the drone on race mode and start to fly around at full throttle, the time goes right below 14 minutes line.
And this is only the beginning of the bad news as the drone will automatically return to the departing point (or, if you choose it, to where you are) when its battery gets low, and will land in place automatically if it gets down to about 2 minutes! of life left.
Spare batteries are not cheap: they rate at $99.99 per unit.
The Karma sets their vertical and horizontal operating ranges up to 9,840ft (3,000m) most than enough in most cases (keep in mind one of the key FAA rules: keeping the drone in visible range when flying it!).
However, this operating range can be an issue from a quality point of view, both in rural and in suburban environments.
When there are lots of radio or wi-fi signals, the video feed starts to degrade as this birdie climbs up in the air. We experienced some minor issues at 900 feet and problems from 1,500 feet on, with screen flickering and, eventually (just once tough!) loosing the drone’s signal. We did not loose the drone, as it entered in return-to-home mode and it landed safely after two minutes.
The operating range is much better when we fly the Karma in a rural environment, building free area, without loads of home Wi-Fi networks clogging the airwaves. We set the Karma near to its maximum nominal altitude without any issue.
The GoPro Karma, can operate with these 3 kind of (detachable) GoPro Cameras:
- GoPro HERO6 Black
- GoPro HERO5 Black
- GoPro HERO4 Silver/Black
Want to check the GoPro HERO camera capabilities. Follow the links ahead!
The Karma does not have any obstacle avoidance technology whatsoever. In comparison, the DJI drones, comes with downward- and forward-facing sensors to help them fly steadily indoors and avoid flying into obstacles, as well as DJI’s radio-based long-range communication system.
The Karma Drone feels very under-equipped in comparison: a reliance on GPS for stable flight means it requires full manual control to fly indoors (I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, except inside a huge hall or hangar), and there’s no form of collision detection at all.
Indeed, the Karma does have the following practical features:
- Automatic Take-Off Function: Just tap an icon on the touchscreen for lift off and the Karma will be up in the air.
- Automatic Landing Function: Just tap an icon on the remote control and the screen will let you choose whether you want the Karma to return to you or to return to the launch site
- Follow Mode: The Follow Mode has two variants, Mimic and Leash. Both of them do the same thing differently: the drone, automatically, records you walking, surging, biking or jumping like a monkey. Important! The Karma lacks of a Mavic Pro DJI’s drone feature: facial recognition. Karma won’t follow you if you’re doing and activity based on random movements. Keep that in mind.
- Watch Mode: Karma will automatically frame your controller or subject by rotating and tilting the camera while keeping the Karma drone hovering in place.
- Dronie Mode: With the dronie mode, Karma takes selfies by zooming out from your perspective. The drone starts by being near to the subject and then flies out pointing at it, at a constant rate.
- Cable Came Mode: The drone will fly automatically between up to 10 waypoints.
- Reveal Mode: With Reveal, the drone flies from one point to another. You set the camera tilt at the starting and ending points, so the camera gradually reveals a scene as the move progresses. Remember the last scence from Master and Commander when the camera “flies” to the french ship? That’s a Reveal Mode.
- Orbit Mode: With this mode, you could set your drone to fly around the Eiffel Tower (please, don’t do it!) in circles pointing at it.
As usual, it’s Made in China, but let me bomb you with some extended (important) information.
The Karma is constructed with tough, good plastic that puts the weight slightly above 1kg (35.5oz). Even folded, is larger than their DJI’s rivals, the Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro. Why? The Karma is designed to have the camera in front of the drone to let the user a more wide angle of view. With this drone, you can shoot ceilings or objects above it, as the propellers won’t interfere the vision angle of the camera. It is the only drone that can do that.
Their DJI’s counterparts, have their cameras underneath the “fuselage” which allow it allows the Karma Case backpack to be slim, making it easy to carry and store.
Also, the Karma represents one of the most versatile drones out in the market. Really. You can detach easily the gimbal and reattach it to the Karma Grip (supplied with the drone) for a “on-earth” use. This is really, a bang for the buck!
What do you get when you buy the drone?
- GoPro HERO6 Black.
- Controller (LCD Incorporated).
- Set of 6 propellers: Karma is a quadrocopter, so GoPro gives you a two extra ones.
- Karma Stabilizer (gimbal): detachable.
- Karma Grip: To be used with the stabilizer.
- GoPro Harness.
- Karma Battery: Just one. If you buy the Karma be smart: buy an extra battery. You’ll need it.
- Karma Chrger.
- Karma Case: Black and fancy. Does its function well. It features a GoPro universal mount on one of the shoulder straps; attach the Karma Grip and you’ve got yourself a stabilised body cam.
- Karma Mounting Ring.
The GoPro Karma is one of the easiest long range drones that one could fly. Really. It has two modes, a Pro and a relaxed one. You can even limit the altitude that the drone can reach when you fly it.
It features a practice mode, useful for the rookie users but, again, it is not a good piece of technology for stationary flying, so be careful with trees, walls and other obstacles.
GoPro Karma Drone
The Karma is one of the most appealing drones if we look to the complete package. Do you own a GoPro Hero (4,5 or 6) camera? This is your drone!
Every bit of the package works well but, if we compare to their rivals ( DJI Phantom 4 or Mavic Pro among others), the drone comes off a kind of short in some areas: battery life, range or obstacle avoidance system are good examples.
This said, if you want one…get one! The Karma is fun to fly and delivers great footage.
- Easy to Use.
- Detachable gimbal.
- Karma Grip Supplied.
- 3 camera options available.
- Automatic take off and landing functions.
- Does not feature Obstacle Avoidance Technology.
- Range issues.
- Poor battery performance. Short flight time.