As Competition Heats Up, Action-Cam Company Looks for More Leadership Positions

GoPro—the company that dominated the market for tiny action cams by figuring out how to make them nearly ubiquitous—is getting ready to sell its own drones.

The news, which was confirmed yesterday by GoPro CEO Nick Woodman at Re/Code's Code Conference 2015, comes as no surprise, and not just because The Wall Street Journal first reported on GoPro's planned sub-$1000 mini-copters last year. A GoPro drone is a foregone conclusion because the company has perfected the science and design of the disposable 4K camera. Now, with action-cam competitors (including Sony Action Cam and the inexpensive Xiaomi Yi) coming out of the woodwork, there's nowhere else for GoPro to go but up.

If anything, GoPro has been a little slow to pull the trigger. First it'll have to catch up with China's DJI, which just launched the Phantom 3, which packs its own camera in both HD ($1259) and 4K ($999) versions. GoPro's imaging technology may well be superior, but will its first-generation drone technology compare favorably with what DJI is offering?

It may not matter. DJI is well-known among digital filmmakers, but GoPro has overwhelming brand recognition among consumers. If GoPro can market an inexpensive but fully featured and easy-to-use quadcopter, the built-in brand recognition should help it fly a long, long way.

The GoPro drone is scheduled for the first half of 2016, but Woodman wouldn't comment on pricing.

spherical_explorerA GoPro-branded drone will be aimed at the mass audience, but another new initiative—a VR camera rig—is geared more toward pros. Woodman announced yesterday that GoPro is developing a spherical six-camera array for VR acquisition. That wasn't a huge surprise, either, given that GoPro purchased French VR specialist Kolor, which makes multi-camera GoPro VR rigs, last month. But lots of pro users have built multi-camera rigs. The real challenge will be software and workflow. If GoPro makes VR image acquisition and stitching truly simple, the company that generated the big boom in POV camera gear will take a leadership position in virtual reality, too.

The GoPro VR rig is due later this year.

Watch the video below using Google's Chrome browser or the Kolor app to get an idea of what a GoPro-originated VR experience feels like.