Thank you to Lawrence Nixon for this insightful review. 

GoPro Karma Drone

After purchasing a GoPro HERO5 Black Action Camera last year, I was excited to see the launch of the GoPro Karma Drone to add to the fun. Watching the promotional videos just wet my appetite even more – but I had to wait until it became available locally! Wen, at last, the day arrived, I received the usual great service from the Outdoorphoto guys for the fulfilment of an online order and received my new “toy” within 2 days.


Unpacking it showed the thought that had gone into providing a portable solution that would be easy to transport – the case is a little bigger than I imagined, (not something I would that I would take with on a seriously long hike when fully loaded), but very convenient for taking along the drone and controller to a spot to fly.


Assembling the drone only involves fitting the 4 propellers and extending the propeller arms and landing gear, and of course charging the battery. It is pretty simple once you figure out that the propellers are colour coded with 2 fastening on clockwise and the other two anti-clockwise. The confusing bit is that you receive 2 spare propellers with the initial order – 3 of each of the 2 types. This also adds to another small annoyance – the lack of any detailed instructions, even on the website.

It’s useful that the charger allows you to charge the drone battery as well as the controller simultaneously, and charge time was about 1 hour. You do, however, also need to ensure that your GoPro camera is charged as well.

The drone will only fly with the camera attached (because of the way in which the drone distributes weight), so no shortcuts on buying the drone only! Fitting the camera into the stabilising gimble on the front of the drone takes a bit of firm pushing and you need to remove the cover for the HDMI and USB ports completely as these plug into connectors fitted into the gimble – they allow you to control the camera from the controller.

A further trial and error lesson was to ensure that the camera was securely installed and connected before connecting the drone to the controller as you may end up with no picture from the drone as I did on the first flight. The controller is easy to setup and only requires a Wi-Fi connection to download updates for the firmware to the drone, controller and camera – once again, you should ensure these updates are all downloaded and installed prior to your first flight! There is a simple flight simulator built into the controller to allow you to “practice” flying. It’s well worth taking the few minutes to try it out as it gives you a sense of the controls as well as the challenge of remembering the orientation of the drone.

I have never flown another drone, so I cannot offer any comparison with other drones. My assessment below should, therefore, be understood in this context:


Unable to wait until I found a large open field to try it out for the first time, I decided to try it out in the garden. It was easy enough to get started and in no time I had it up in the air. The big lesson is that it moves a hell-of-a-lot faster than I anticipated and is very responsive to the joysticks on the controller. For this reason, you need to learn subtle controlled movements, which I did not do fast enough, and so ended up crashing it when I tried to avoid hitting a tree – bang went all 4 propellers! Even more disappointing was that there were no replacement parts available in South Africa, so I had to order them online from a supplier in Holland (the shipping costs more than the replacement propellers). Retailers should anticipate this before making a new product available – the same thing happened when I purchased the HERO5 camera and there were no spare batteries available!

A further 2-week wait and eventually I took it to a wide open field and flew it successfully for the full duration of the battery life, which is disappointingly only around 18 minutes! Once again, frustratingly, spare batteries are not yet for sale locally. (Sounds like a recurring theme!)

I have never flown another drone, so I cannot offer any comparison with other drones. My assessment below should, therefore, be understood in this context:


  • It is easy to take-off and land. If you need the support, you can even activate the automated function from the controller.
  • It offers incredibly stable image for viewing and recording. The second time I flew the drone in a moderate wind and you can’t even pick up on it in the recorded footage.
  • The drone’s lights are easily visible to about 120 m (400 ft) helping you keep aware of its orientation. When flying further than this, use the image on the controller to track the drone.
  • It is very responsive to any command fired from the controller.
  • The separate controller frees up your cell phone, which is easier to use thanks to the user-friendly joysticks.
  • You can observe drone footage in real time from your own device by connecting the passenger app to the controller.
  • When using the GoPro HERO5 Black Action Camera, you can rest assured of excellent, broadcast-quality video with multiple options to control the field width and brightness.
  • The four pre-programmed flight paths are easy to set up and allow for recording cinematic type footage.


  • Battery life lasts only 18 minutes.
  • It doesn’t have any “follow me” or obstacle avoidance technology, however the promotional videos seemed to suggest otherwise!
  • Locally, there is no availability of spares at the moment.
  • There is a lack of detailed instructions, so I eventually resorted to watching some YouTube videos to learn how to use the full functionality.
  • I experienced confusing local regulations by the CAA on the rules governing drone use. Be sure to visit the CAA website to check what you “officially” can and can’t do if you want to fly legally.


This drone needs to be seen as a photographic tool. It is an incredible platform for getting new angles and perspectives for capturing footage from your GoPro camera. I am looking forward to exploring familiar places from a new perspective! It’s easy to set up and fly, and simple to operate once you are more familiar with all the controls and functionality. Despite some of the early setbacks, I am very happy with my purchase.