Tech

Tim Culpan is a technology columnist for Bloomberg Gadfly. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.

In the Netherlands, police have been training eagles to hunt and ground drones that are considered hostile.

A week after fading action-cam maker GoPro unveiled its long-anticipated flying toy, Karma, Nick Woodman's outfit suffered its own drone strike.

The hunter in this case is China's DJI, which swooped in Tuesday with the Mavic Pro, a drone with a built-in camera, a compelling product when you consider that with Karma, the camera is extra. As the global king of consumer drones, DJI clearly isn't going to let anyone invade its airspace, making Karma look more like a parrot than a hawk.

Crashing to Earth
GoPro is struggling to maintain momentum, spurring the action-cam maker to invade new territories in its hunt for growth
Source: Bloomberg

GoPro shares drifted sideways after the DJI announcement, doing little to retrace the 31 percent run up of the last two weeks. In reality, investors were excited about Karma not because it was an awesome product, but because it gave them hope GoPro might not be a one-trick pony. Global drone market revenue, after all, is set to climb an average 32 percent annually over the coming decade, according to ABI Research.

Even if Karma were to be a fantastic competitor, its release won't make anyone a winner. All GoPro is doing in entering the drone market is adding yet another product to what's fast becoming a sector crowded with lookalikes. You just need to recall what happened in the PC and smartphone markets to know what comes of a business when dozens try to compete.

Flying High
GoPro shares soared after it unveiled its first drone
Source: Bloomberg

Remember also that GoPro isn't the first firm to think it can take on DJI. Even Xiaomi wants to join the party.

DJI has a 10-year head start on GoPro. That not only means marketing, distribution and product knowledge, but also patents and technology. GoPro has a reputation for making hip cameras. While analysts are now debating whether consumers will choose a drone-cum-camera, or a camera brand that sells a drone, the argument is moot.

No-Margin Business
With GoPro unable to spin an operating profit from its existing business, it's unlikely a move into new markets will boost the bottom line
Source: Bloomberg

The only result will be that prices for both fall, squeezing margins. That means the camera, drone and camera-drone markets will quickly be driven to their inevitable place as a commodity in spite of continued growth for the segment overall.

In such a scenario, spoils will flow to the biggest players, leaving smaller contenders out in the cold. When it comes to DJI versus GoPro, it's pretty clear who's the hunter and who is the hunted.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katrina Nicholas at knicholas2@bloomberg.net