GoPro’s defunct Karma drone has suddenly stopped working, owners claim

Since the publication of the article below, GoPro has told Digital Trends that it’s currently in the process of implementing and testing a fix, and expects to release a firmware update for Karma that will address the problem this week, adding, “We apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by this issue.”

Remember the Karma drone? It was GoPro’s attempt at making a consumer quadcopter to take on market leader DJI. The company launched it in November 2016 but lack of sales prompted it to abandon the device in 2018.

Since then we’ve heard little of the device, but there are still Karma owners out there flying the machine. Or at least, they were until January 1.

Spotted by The Verge, GoPro’s online forum has been hit with messages from Karma pilots around the world complaining of problems getting the drone to fly.

The posts all describe the same problems with the Karma, specifically, that since the start of the year it’s become impossible to pick up a GPS signal and to perform the pre-flight procedure of compass calibration — issues that are preventing Karma pilots from flying their drones.

One owner in the U.K. wrote, “I used the drone in the same place 2 days ago. Now it says compass failed and no GPS. The only thing I’ve done today is reformat the SD card to clear it. Has anyone found a solution to this problem yet?” Another said, “Flew it yesterday, today a no go … I spent quite a bit of time on chat with a GoPro agent and she had no answers.”

In a message posted on its website on January 6, GoPro offered a brief explanation regarding the problem: “Consumer electronics products, like Karma, which we stopped producing in January of 2018, rely on the World Magnetic Model to provide accurate positioning services. Late last week, after the New Year, we began to receive reports of users not being able to calibrate the compass on Karma. After investigation, we found that the World Magnetic Model stored in Karma experienced an issue when we clicked over to 2020.” It added that when it releases the fix in the coming days, it’ll post information on how to update the drone on the same webpage.

Drone debacle

Few will dispute GoPro’s ability to produce a great action camera, but an awesome drone? Not so much.

A short time after the Karma’s launch, a number of owners reported battery failures that caused the machine to fall out of the sky mid-flight. The resulting recall dented the Karma’s reputation, making it even harder for GoPro to survive in the highly competitive drone market.

It was also impacted heavily by DJI’s Mavic Pro, which arrived just days after the Karma and came with obstacle avoidance and auto-tracking, both of which the Karma lack.

GoPro exited the drone market in 2018, but those who continue to use its quadcopter will still expect the company to resolve this latest issue soon.

Updated on January 7, 2020: Added GoPro’s explanation.

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