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GoPro shares jump with Karma drone launch

The stage is set before the start of a GoPro launch event in Olympic Valley, California on Sept. 19.

JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

GoPro Inc. unveiled Monday its drone, adding a new dimension to the action-and-adventure film-making it's become famous for through its tiny, cube-shaped cameras, and sparking a rally for the company's flagging stock.

The Karma drone, priced at $799, fits into a small, included backpack, and features a detachable camera stabilizer as well as a game-style controller with a display to show the live feed from the drone's camera.

"Thanks to Karma, we're entering a new era of high quality user generated content," Chief Executive Officer Nick Woodman said at an an event in Squaw Valley, California.

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GoPro, based in San Mateo, California, also also introduced the latest iterations in its Hero camera line, the $399, waterproof Hero5 Black, and the Hero5 Session at $299.

After the drone's release was postponed earlier this year and the Hero 4 entered the market late and overpriced last year, GoPro was in need of a hit. Its stock has tumbled 17 per cent in the past year through Friday and is down almost 85 per cent from its October 2014 high. It rose as much as 9.9 per cent Monday to $16.44.

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jitendra Waral said the Karma launch will be a "pivotal event for the company," and a chance for GoPro to renew sales growth by "jump-starting" a nascent category through its brand strength and dedicated user base of about 10 million people.

GoPro could also disrupt the drone market that's so far been dominated by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co. and countless upstarts that are flooding the market with cheap drones, from $10 mini toys to sub-$100 camera carriers. Shenzhen-based DJI has been developing its drones for almost a decade, and its most advanced quadcopters are featured in Apple's stores and websites. Drones are still largely novelty items, yet manufacturers are betting that they can capture a part of the consumer drone market that's estimated to reach $4.19-billion by 2024.

GoPro's Karma has potential to gain decent traction if it's priced under $1,000 and has all the capabilities of existing drones in that price category, according to Colin Snow, founder of Skylogic Research. At the most basic level, the drone needs to have a 4K camera, sense and avoidance capabilities so that the drone doesn't crash into things, camera stabilization, and the ability to take excellent footage, he said.

"Will GoPro grab market share from companies that have been out there for a while like DJI? It depends upon what level of sophistication it comes in at and how well it does when it initially releases," Snow said. "Almost no drone we've ever seen comes out without a host of problems."

Both of the new cameras announced Monday can shoot with video resolution up to 4K at 30 frames per second and can be mounted on the drone. The new cameras can upload photos and videos while charging to GoPro's cloud-based subscription service that allows users to store, edit and share their content.

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