Tuesday October 4th, 2016

Read about the latest sports tech news, innovations, ideas and products that impact players, fans and the sports industry at SportTechie.com.

GoPro is taking its cameras to new heights—literally. The action camera company announced last year that it’s entering the drone game, and this month, the remote-controlled aircraft that will make its cameras fly will hit the market. The company introduced the Karma drone during a launch event at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in California, and the new quadcopter boasts some exciting features for action sport athletes.

To start, the drone is foldable and even comes with a backpack, making it convenient to carry on the go. On top of that, it features a game-style controller with an integrated touch display, which makes it extremely easy to fly.

For those who are less experienced with manual flight, the drone also includes automated takeoff and landing modes, as well as a number of semi-autonomous flight modes. These hands-free flight modes are where action sport athletes can get the most out of the Karma drone. According to The Verge’s Sean O’Kane, who took the drone for a flight test, these modes include:

• Orbital Mode: the camera will stay locked on you while the drone hovers around you

• Dronie Mode: the camera will start on you while the drone zooms up into the sky

• Cable-Cam Mode: you set two points and the drone will travel in a line between them

These various features will allow extreme sport athletes to capture their feats from all kinds of new angles. Of course, a new GoPro drone wouldn’t be complete without a new camera to go with it.

Enter the Hero 5 Black and Hero 5 Session, GoPro’s newest cameras, which were introduced alongside the Karma drone. Both cameras shoot in video resolution up to 4K at 30 frames per second, which is especially impressive for the tiny Hero 5 Session.

The Hero 5 Session is designed as a cube that can easily fit in the palm of your hand, so getting detailed footage on such a small device is a big deal. But GoPro founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman also claims that despite its diminutive design, the Hero 5 Session is one of the most durable cameras the company has ever made. “This thing is endearingly a cockroach,” he said in the launch video. “It’s incredibly difficult to kill a Session.”

The Hero 5 Black, on the other hand, is a more normal-sized digital camera. While its design isn’t as convenient as the Hero 5 Session, it takes still photos at a higher resolution. Still, both cameras share many of the same features, including GPS and voice control available in seven different languages. That means athletes can tell the camera to take action photos without ever touching it.

Watersport athletes should be especially excited because both cameras are waterproof up to 10 meters. That’s an upgrade over GoPro’s previous Hero cameras, which required a protective housing for underwater use. So whether you’re catching some waves or just taking your kids to the pool, GoPro’s new cameras have made it easier to capture those moments.

While camera drones feel like a natural step forward for GoPro, it’s difficult to determine how this will affect the company’s stock. After GoPro sales tanked during the holidays, many people hoped the Karma drone would expand the brand and give the company a boost.

The Karma drone puts GoPro in direct competition with Chinese company Dà-Jiāng Innovations (DJI), the world’s top civilian drone producer. Just a week after GoPro unveiled Karma, DJI announced their new Mavic Pro drone, which caused GoPro’s stock to fall. On paper at least, it seems like the Mavic Pro outclasses Karma in a number of different categories.

Still, GoPro’s name recognition and the fast-growing market for drone technology could be enough to cause the company to rebound.

GoPro’s Karma drone will be available Oct. 23, while DJI’s Mavic Pro will be available Oct. 15. GoPro’s Hero 5 Black and Hero 5 Session cameras are available now.

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