DJI Heads Off GoPro With Smart, Compact Mavic Pro Drone

GoPro Inc.’s new Karma drone isn’t on sale yet, but it already has a nemesis, the Mavic Pro—a new quadcopter introduced on Tuesday by SZ DJI Technology Co., the Chinese company that has risen to dominance in the consumer drone space.

Both drones are small enough to carry in a backpack, both feature foldable propeller arms, and both connect to 4K cameras. But they have some differences in capabilities and price.

The Mavic Pro has a built-in camera and will sell for $1,000. GoPro will sell its Karma drone for $800, and will bundle a Hero 5 Black camera with the drone for $1,100. (In 2017, it plans to offer a $1,000 Karma bundle including the smaller Hero 5 Session camera.)


Mavic Pro is filled with cutting-edge flight features similar to the ones that first appeared in the larger, pricier DJI Phantom 4. Both the Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 use data from cameras and sensors to avoid trees, buildings and moving objects—at least those obstacles that are in front of them when they are flying forward. Both DJI drones also can follow users as they walk around, and circle subjects.

GoPro says its Karma drone doesn’t have an object avoidance system. Shares of GoPro fell 4.6% to $16.15 in afternoon trading Tuesday in New York.

The Mavic Pro adds a couple of new flight features, too. A “terrain mode” allows the Mavic Pro to fly while maintaining a specific height above the ground: It moves up and down as the ground’s altitude changes. The drone also snaps a selfie of the drone user when that person pantomimes a camera-snap gesture. The Mavic Pro also can focus on the drone user if that person waves his or her arms.

The Mavic Pro has a 4K, 12-megapixel camera with a 78-degree field of view. For a more immersive view, DJI plans to sell a pair of goggles later this year that display a “drone’s eye view” streamed from the Mavic Pro. DJI hasn’t yet announced pricing for the goggles.

The Mavic Pro kit includes a wireless remote control that can be paired with a smartphone, so a user can get a live video feed from the drone. DJI also says its new drone can be controlled fully from an iPhone or Android handset, although that might limit the range of control. DJI will sell the Mavic Pro without its controller for $750.

The Mavic Pro can fly as many as 4.3 miles away from whomever is controlling it, and it can operate for about 27 minutes of flight time before needing to be recharged—a minute shorter than the bulkier Phantom 4. GoPro says the Karma will run for 20 minutes.

The Mavic Pro’s flight time and size also make it a competitor to Parrot’s Bebop 2 drone. The $550 Bebop 2 lacks the cutting-edge flight tracking and object avoidance as well as gesture commands and foldable arms.

The Mavic Pro is available for preorder, and it ships on Oct. 15.

Write to Nathan Olivarez-Giles at Nathan.Olivarez-giles@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications:
GoPro will bundle the Hero 5 Black camera with a Karma drone for $1,100 and plans to offer a $1,000 Karma bundle with the smaller Hero 5 Session camera in 2017. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the combined price of a Karma drone and Hero 5 camera. (Sept. 27, 2016)

This post originally appeared on the Wall Street Journal.

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