GoPro Karma drones lose power in midair; videos show crazy crashes

Darren Berreclota, right, pilots a GoPro Karma drone during a media event in Olympic Valley, California on Sept. 19.
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

Struggling video camera maker GoPro announced a recall of the 2,500 Karma drones its has sold since the new product went on sale two weeks ago.

GoPro said it wants all the devices back because it’s investigating reports that a small number of them lost power during operation. The issue could explain why YouTube videos have popped up of Karmas nosediving from hundreds of feet up, shattering into bits and pieces on impact.

The San Mateo, Calif., company said in its recall notice late Tuesday that no injuries or property damage have been reported. The drone hobbyist group UAVHive has pointed to at least four cases in which a Karma dropped from the sky unexpectedly.

“GoPro deserves credit for acting so fast recalling Karma drones after a small number ... saw power failures,” UAVHive said on Twitter.


The Karma is designed to steadily carry a GoPro camera. A person controls flight and camera angles by remote. The aircraft is supposed to automatically safely land before the battery runs out or return closer to the controller if it gets out of range.

Though the incidents make for captivating footage, they’re not the kind likely to help sell the $799 device. GoPro had hoped the drone would help it stay competitive as the action-camera market matures.

Financial analysts say GoPro continues to design cool products, but are troubled by its struggles to bring them to market without pricing or production issues. The supply issues, including earlier shipping delays for the Karma, could cut into holiday sales.

Prior to the recall, analysts had expected GoPro to report a loss in 2016 of $276 million, swinging away from a $36-million profit last year. Sales are estimated to fall to $1.3 billion from $1.6 billion, according to FactSet data. Shares of GoPro sank about 9% to below $10 after the recall announcement.


GoPro is issuing refunds, but it’s not ready to do exchanges and no date was given for when the Karma might relaunch. The recall applies even to users who haven’t experienced any issues.

“Even though your Karma appears to be working fine, we are asking all customers to immediately stop using the product and participate in the recall,” the company said. / PGP

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