When GoPro said it was going to build more specialized cameras this year, we didn’t quite know what it meant. Today, it’s revealing the GoPro Hero10 Black Bones, a cut-down version of its flagship camera meant explicitly for FPV drone pilots like the one who famously blazed through that bowling alley last year. The idea is that pilots will strap one of these to their drone to film brilliant footage while using a separate low-latency analog camera and a pair of FPV goggles to see where their drone is going.
When I say cut down, I mean there’s no screens, no speaker, no door, no waterproofing, and no battery inside this thing: the $500 camera ($400 with subscription) is the first GoPro ever made that requires soldering skills, the company tells me.
Why? Because GoPro saw that its customers were already cutting their GoPros in half to keep their acrobatic flying filmmaking tools in the air longer, and the company realized it could do better. “You’ve seen the rise of videos like flying into the bowling alley, or even the latest Tesla Gigafactory video — those are all done by people who took the time to try to make a GoPro lighter,” Pablo Lema, GoPro’s head of product, tells The Verge on a call.
Lema says some pilots were literally cutting their cameras open to reduce their weight by removing unnecessary components, but that doing so could lead to overheating, particularly at takeoff and landing. So GoPro’s new Bones brings its flagship Hero10 Black’s sensor, lens, processor, and long-impressive HyperSmooth built-in stabilization software to a newly ventilated, heatsink-equipped barebones camera that weighs just 54 grams.
It’s the lightest GoPro ever, just over a third the weight of the original Hero10 Black, and it’s lighter than the 74-gram, cube-shaped GoPro Session that didn’t exactly shake up the action cam world back in 2015. Which is, of course, to be expected when you shed many of the things that make a GoPro a GoPro, including that battery.
“To make a camera that a dad can film their kid in the pool with no problems, we’ve had to make it a little bit bigger, a little bit heavier,” says Lema of the original GoPros you know (and, maybe, love). But now, the company is experimenting with giving niche but growing populations of customers the specialized GoPros they might want. “We’re pretty uniquely positioned to attack unique verticals in image capture that other companies frankly don’t or wouldn’t have the appetite or tech to be able to.”
FPV is one of those opportunities, says Lema, saying it’s become a pretty important perspective for cinematographers. He also says the customers for this product aren’t going to shy away from a soldering station; attaching motors and control circuitry is how they build their drones to begin with.
And that’s one place where the Bones pulls a neat trick: it’s got a built-in regulator circuit so you don’t need to worry about how much voltage your LiPo is supplying. It’ll run off anything from 5–27 volts so you can fly regardless of whether your drone’s got a comparatively wimpy 2S or up to a 6S rechargeable lithium battery. “You can solder this into the battery leads of your drone and it’ll work just fine,” says Lema.
You can also control it from your drone’s controller. If you don’t want to use its two physical buttons or GoPro’s app or optional remote, there’s a third wire you can connect to a flight controller and operate with the likes of the open-source Betaflight software or GoPro’s Open GoPro APIs. “You can develop whatever software you want,” Lema says. GoPro doesn’t yet offer the ability to read direct raw images off the camera, though, so it may not be ready for the computer vision applications you might now be thinking of.
It’s a little wild to see GoPro reentering the drone market in any way after its high-profile failure to launch in 2018. When I ask, Lema laughs and says no, there’s no plans to make another drone as of now. But he hints that there are more purpose-built GoPros on the way for other use cases that might seem niche today — where if you asked today’s GoPro users where they need a slightly different kind of camera, they’d have a ready answer. (I’m curious if VR video is still on the table.)
DJI has recently shown it sees opportunity in FPV as well. After mostly ignoring that sector of drones for years, it released its own FPV racing goggles and flight camera in 2019 as well as a full-on FPV drone in 2021. For non-FPV applications, dronemakers like DJI had long edged out GoPro. While the original Phantom drones and once-promising rivals like the 3D Robotics Solo were explicitly designed to carry GoPros, they quickly replaced them with comparatively tiny purpose-built cameras that were easier to manipulate with a motorized gimbal.
The Hero10 Black Bones will be available exclusively at gopro.com starting today, with no retail availability, for $400 including a one-year GoPro subscription, or $500 without. Yes, that means the camera costs more if you don’t want a free subscription valued at $50 that includes camera replacement and cloud backup — GoPro says it wants to point more customers towards those subscription benefits.
Correction, 10:54AM ET: The Bones will start at $399 for existing subscribers, not $349. The lower price was based on an incorrect marketing document GoPro sent.