China’s DJI Unveils New Drone to Compete With GoPro’s Karma

  • The two compete firecely in market seen at $4 billion in 2024
  • DJI has longer history; GoPro has large, loyal fan-base

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. stepped up to defend its market-leading position, unveiling a new, compact drone targeted at consumers and professionals just over a week after GoPro Inc. introduced its own long-anticipated quadcopter.

The two companies are competing fiercely in the fast-growing consumer drone market that’s estimated to reach $4.19 billion by 2024. While DJI built up its dominance for years through sales of its professional and industrial drones, GoPro has a loyal and large fan-base for its action-cameras and has staked the company’s future on drones.

DJI’s Mavic Pro

Source: DJI Technology Co.

DJI’s newest offering is the Mavic Pro, a foldable model that can be operated with a smartphone or controller and fly for up to 27 minutes. At $999 it boasts shake-free videos and the capability to live-stream full HD video to Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube, according to a statement from the company Tuesday. GoPro’s Karma drone without a camera retails for $799, or as much as $1,099 with the Hero5 Black model.

“This will eclipse the Karma,” said Colin Snow, founder of Skylogic Research. “DJI tends to jump ahead with their technology because they have so much money in R&D. They have access to all these engineers in Shenzhen. Their focus is to bring products to market quicker.”

GoPro had planned to release the Karma drone earlier this year but delayed its debut by several months, giving DJI extra time to keep building market share, according to Snow. Though the Karma may appeal to existing GoPro customers who are familiar with the brand, DJI has spent a decade developing superior software and hardware, Snow said.

GoPro shares extended declines after the DJI announcement. The stock fell as much as 6.3 percent to $15.85.

Crowded Skies

While the latest models from DJI and GoPro are aimed at more serious consumers looking for higher-end products, they also must compete in an increasingly crowded field, flooded with cheaper models from upstarts, ranging from $10 mini-toys to camera carriers for less than $100.

DJI’s Mavic Pro folded up.

Source: DJI Technology Co.

Both the Mavic Pro and Karma are advertised as easy-to-use, compact drones that can be thrown into a backpack. The Mavic Pro’s battery lasts longer than Karma’s 20 minutes of flight time, and can fly faster at up to 40 mph. DJI’s drone includes multiple sensors, ultrasonic range-finders, and deep-learning processors for different types of flying modes. The drone includes a “gesture mode” that allows users to take aerial selfies by waving their arms so the drone can locate the person and take the photo. Users can pair the drone with DJI goggles that display what the drone is seeing in front of their eyes.

The Mavic Pro is available for pre-order now and will begin shipping Oct. 15. The Karma will be on shelves at select retail locations on Oct. 23. The Mavic Pro can also be ordered on Apple Inc.’s website and will be available in Apple stores in early November.

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