Faithful fans of the ill-fated GoPro Karma drone who were holding out hope for a sequel this year are going to be disappointed. While GoPro did mention the Karma during its big Hero 6 Black event today, it only did so in the capacity of a new software update. And even there, those updates are meager.
The highlight is that GoPro is adding two new shooting modes called “Follow” and “Watch.” But while those names might evoke something along the lines of the computer vision-driven, subject-tracking modes on DJI’s drones, they’re not quite as robust. Instead, both modes rely on the drone keeping the Karma controller in the frame instead of using any sort of algorithmic object recognition. Watch is for when you want the drone to stay put while you move with the controller, and Follow is for when you want the drone to track you across a scene.
Requiring the controller to be in the drone’s field of view pretty much rules them out as creative modes for filmmaking, though it’s become all too clear since last year’s release that GoPro doesn’t intend for Karma to be heavily used in that capacity anyway. That said, GoPro is adding a new Cable Cam mode that allows up to 10 waypoints along the drone’s path of travel. But considering Karma still lacks basic obstacle avoidance features necessary for these kinds of advanced shooting situations, it’s still really more suited for casual flying that caters directly to GoPro users and owners.
Still, when you consider that it was only 11 months ago that GoPro had to recall each of the first 2,500 units of Karma that were shipped, and only eight months ago that it went back on sale, it’s somewhat encouraging that the product survived to the point that it’s getting feature updates. In the meantime, the company is undoubtedly working on a true follow-up to its first effort in the space, even if those who want more out of a drone have probably already turned their attention elsewhere.