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swmcdonnell, Engineer
Category: Consumer Electronics
Satisfied Customers: 289
Experience:  Steve builds robots and writes guides for the RadioShack Technology website.
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Customer Question

Please answer this two part question:
Part one: What is your take on the new go-pro karma drone? Worth $1,100 plus a few hundred in batteries and parts?
Part Two:
A person has zero experience with drones. Two avenues exist for me. On the SAFE end is to buy something relatively cheap such as $150. and practice with that for awhile, OR just save up for the go-pro one since, hopefully it is easy to learn and will not end up smashed for lack of experience. Your choices are:
2. PROBABLY the safe method is best since the gopro is a new essentially unproven item.
3. 50-50 either way is not a bad choice
4. Just get the money and get the go-pro and you probably will be ok even as a newby.
5. DO NOT but the go-pro at this time with zero experience. It might be a dumb move.
Any thoughts are appreciated. Len
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Consumer Electronics
Expert:  Wes replied 8 months ago.

Hi Len,
It doesn't look like Steve is available currently. I have some experience with drones so I thought I would share my opinion. If my info doesn't really help you, and you still want to wait for Steve, let me know and I'll opt out and hopefully Steve will pick up the question at some point.

If you have no experience, with drones, I would recommend picking up something on the order of a JXD 510G to get your feet wet. They run about $90, parts and batteries are pretty cheap too. 6 extra batteries and a charger are around $15-20. They're also a snap to fly. It's not that drones like the Karma and it's DJI competitors are hard to fly... its more that the penalties for having a problem like a fly-off, unexpected wind shifts, getting too close to obstacles, etc... are considerably higher.

Are you pretty set on the Karma? There are a couple of nice offerings from DJI out there as well. If you're not really sure what you want in a drone, that also might be a reason to start with a lower end one so you can get a feel for what your desired capabilities are. If you already know however, and want a professional flying camera platform... the Karma may be just the drone for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for more of an autonomous drone experience... you might be disappointed with the Karma. It lacks some of the features I'd consider essential for a drone of it's expense like anti-collision and "follow me". On the other hand, some of the auto-shot features of the Karma are pretty interesting, as is the "passenger" app which let's someone else control the camera while you fly. Those features lend to the Karma's emphasis as more of a professional flying camera platform than a drone. If you plan to do inside flying, the Karma also may not be the best choice either as it lacks the sensors present on the DJI Mavic and Phantom 4 which allow them to fly inside without GPS using collision avoidance via optical and sonar sensors.

There is also a third route you could take... if you like idea of a drone which uses a GoPro as it's primary camera, but aren't quite ready to jump into the $1000+ range... and let's face it, you're not a kid and you're probably going to get bored with a $100 drone within a month, right? Take a look at the 3DR Solo drones. They run about $400-$500 for one which includes a 3-axis GoPro-compatible gimbal (they use a Hero 3+Black or 4). If you were to pick up a used GoPro Hero 3 Black for $120-$150, you'd have a lot of the same capabilities of the Karma at half the price. You can even get ones with a backpack (like the Karma) for around an additional $100. I think bottom-line, that third option (if you're open to it) would be my recommendation. Though if you have to save-up... it might not be a bad idea just to get a $100 drone to play with while you wait. They're still a lot of fun.

Expert:  swmcdonnell replied 8 months ago.

Part I.

It depends on why you want it, but if I were going to spend that much, I would get the DJI Mavic instead. The Karma scores higher on the camera, but the Mavic scores higher on all the other categories, which trumps the Karma. The Mavic is more durable and a safer buy. It's lighter, more portable and it has an obstacle avoidance system which the Karma doesn't have. It has better tracking and smart modes and it has much better battery life and range. The Karma is slower, has 1/2 the range and 1/3 less flying time. GoPro excels at making cameras. DJI excels at making multicopters.

Part II.


Wait until you have some experience flying drones so there is less risk and so you have a better understanding of what you like and what's important to you. You think you know right now, but you won't really know for sure until you have some practical, hands-on experience flying drones. There are so many different multicopters available today at so many different price points, you need to get a sense of why you prefer one feature or attribute over the next. Plus, the market is changing so quickly that I probably wouldn't buy super high-end today because it won't have the newest cool feature that comes out tomorrow. Unless, of course, I have money to burn.

As I said in the first question, don't rule out owning more than one drone. If you can get two drones that both look great and that have different strengths for the same price as the Karma, to me that's preferable.

One final piece of advice I have is "don't look back." You're clearly doing your due diligence and research to make the best decision you can. Once you make that decision and make a purchase, don't second guess yourself or say "I wish I would have...." It's all a learning experience. There's always going to be something better just around the corner. But if you keep waiting for it, you'll never have fun with what's here today.

Expert:  swmcdonnell replied 8 months ago.

Hey there. I noticed that you never responded to this message, so I was wondering if you got the answer and if you had questions. Did you notice that the Karma was recalled? All 2,500 sold since day 1 because they were falling from the sky and crashing.

Expert:  swmcdonnell replied 6 months ago.

Hi Len, just following back up with you again on this. Did you not like the answer I provided? I think I was spot-on in terms of the Mavic vs the Karma. Is there any other information you need to close out or accept the answer to this question? As a reminder, I don't get paid anything for helping you unless you accept my answer to your question. Regards, Steve

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