GoPro to make consumer drones

GoPro’s durable little cameras are already common accessories on drones, so it only makes sense that the popular hardware company would move on to making … drones.

CEO Nick Woodman announced Wednesday at tech media site Recode’s Code Conference that GoPro would begin its foray into new products, now that it has dominance over the action-sports video-camera market. Woodman said the San Mateo company is working on a drone that is slated to launch in the first half of 2016 and will be aimed at consumers. He declined to share details about its design and pricing.

Many adventure-seeking GoPro enthusiasts have long used drones to propel the wide-screen, HD, resilient camera over topography to survey mountain bike trails or check snow or surf conditions — before then strapping the GoPro camera to their helmet or surfboard to capture their outdoor tricks. And industries including agriculture and oil-and-gas have also used drones equipped with GoPros to survey crops and pipelines, and GoPros flying over high school sporting events has become a more common sight.

Now, the company is preparing to offer consumers the full package.

“It’s incredible to see our world from new perspectives. It’s a real ‘Oh my God’ moment,” Woodman told Recode. “We did that with our GoPro cameras, and we see a similar opportunity in the quadcopter market. It’s something that’s in our DNA, and we are excited about it across the company.”

GoPro’s strong brand and loyal following will likely help it break into the drone market, which is an exploding one. According to the U.S. Consumer Electronics Association, the global market for consumer drones totalled $84 million last year and is forecast to top $300 million by 2018.

But with the new endeavor, the company is wading into precarious regulatory waters. GoPro, like all drone makers, can expect to battle the Federal Aviation Administration on drone laws. Recreational users are supposed to follow the rules for model planes, if only because the FAA hasn’t come up with a new set of regulations for drones. Quadcopters are also are banned in many public areas such a parks, part of the nation’s capital, and in some cases, entire towns.

Photo: Charlie Krenz, 52, uses a GoPro camera on his drone as he flies it off the deck of his home in Portola Valley, Calif., on Saturday, June 21, 2014. By John Green/ Bay Area News Group.

 

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