DJI has grown to be the 800 lb gorilla in the drone industry. Other challengers like Yuneec, 3DR and GoPro appear to be in a race for a distant second-place spot.
We thought GoPro might be able to make a big splash and a bit of a comeback with its Karma drone last year. Of course, we all know how that went.
GoPro’s Karma looked great with a collapsible form factor. Then, DJI dropped the Mavic Pro on us a few days later that made the Karma look much less attractive. It was smaller, lighter and cheaper, as well as having an arguably better spec list. And then, to top it off, GoPro issued a recall for the Karma drones that it had sold because they kept falling out of the sky – thanks to a faulty battery latch.
The Karma was off the market for three months while the Mavic Pro continued to sell like hotcakes. GoPro’s stock continues to decline, which is more of a problem with its position in the action camera market than the drone market. GoPro stock peaked at $86 in 2014 and is now $8.42. GoPro’s market cap sits at $1.19B and two years ago DJI was believed to be valued around $10B. Rumors swirl that DJI could go public this year and could be well north of the valuation.
The technology for action cameras is quite mature now and GoPro is not in the position to out-innovate DJI in the drone market. While there is room for second and third place in the booming drone industry, that’s about all GoPro can aim for now.
I haven’t flown the DJI Mavic Pro yet, but the size and form difference between the Mavic and Karma really struck me when I saw them in person for the first time at NAB 2017. The Mavic Pro literally fits in the palm of my hand. It captures 4K video and has some cool obstacle avoidance tech inside. While I really like the controls with built-in screens found with the GoPro Karma and Yuneec Typhoon series, there’s just no denying DJI’s superior tech across the board.
To be perfectly honest, I’m rooting for GoPro as a company to survive. However, it is in an awkward position. GoPro doesn’t have the decades of product lines and loyal consumer following that big camera manufacturers hold onto today. The action camera market has been commoditized by cheap GoPro clones, which offer quality that is good enough for most people.
GoPro has had fantastic marketing over the years but there isn’t much of a reason to upgrade from one GoPro model to the next. Personally, I’ve had a HERO4 Silver since it was released and see no significant benefit to upgrading to the HERO5. The drone market was the perfect marriage for GoPro when DJI relied on GoPro for its onboard cameras. When DJI began developing its own cameras, however, the writing was on the wall for GoPro.
Imagine if GoPro had jumped into the drone game as a competitor to DJI early on. DJI won, in large part, because it was first to market with a consumer-friendly drone in a market that didn’t quite exist yet. There is a parallel for the early days of GoPro. Both companies essentially invented the markets that they dominate. The action camera market has possibly reached its peak, while the drone market is still in its infancy.
GoPro’s first round in the drone market was too little, too late. Will GoPro continue to invest in drones in a race for second place? It just doesn’t look like it has a shot to out-innovate DJI with drones.
Maybe GoPro comes out with a killer product for VR/360° video capture, changes its game again and rises to the top in the next few years. However, the drone market belongs to DJI.