First Click: Look out! Here come the GoPro drones

May 28th, 2015

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Here’s a prediction: the GoPro drone will be a disaster, not for GoPro, but for humanity. Let me explain.

We live in the selfie age. The selfie stick, I’d argue, was first adopted (and accepted socially) by GoPro users as a way to film their feats of bravery, despite making it awkward to skate, surf, or snowboard. A selfie drone could solve that by locking on to its owner and autonomously track our hero through the city, along the beach, or down the slopes. It would indeed be the “ultimate GoPro accessory,” as teased by CEO Nick Woodman last night at Code. It’s certainly what I want as a selfie-stick owning GoPro user with a dozen or so social media accounts.

Now, imagine me and all my GoPro buddies (there are millions) showing up en masse at popular recreation spots. Our flying accessories would create havoc. Not only because of the risk from above, but from the noise heard below.

Woodman didn’t comment on the drone’s capabilities, but obstacle avoidance and “follow me” are the two features I’d expect from a GoPro-branded quad. Without them the company is just begging to be outlawed from the ski resorts and national parks frequented by its core audience. Intel already demonstrated the type of obstacle avoidance technology required on crowded ski slopes, while DJI and others have demonstrated autonomous self-tracking. Neither technology will come cheap, especially after you factor in the cost of a 4K camera (the terrestrial Hero4 retails for $500). The Wall Street Journal's sources pegged the camera-inclusive price for the GoPro drone at somewhere between $500 and $1000. That leaves me doubtful that we'll see follow-me and collision avoidance in the first GoPro drone.

Regardless, neither advancement addresses the noise created by a dozen quadcopters swarming overhead. Those 48 buzzing motors and 48 air-slapping props will make Earth’s most majestic retreats about as tranquil as an LAX runway.

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