GoPro recalls all Karma drones

Two weeks after GoPro's Karma drone launched, it is being recalled for unexpected power failure.
Written by Kelly McSweeney, Contributor

GoPro's Karma drone is being recalled. (Image: GoPro)

Just last week, GoPro reported a 40-percent decrease in third-quarter revenue. Still, the company's founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, was optimistic that new products could help GoPro return to profitability next year.

"These are the best products we've ever made and consumer demand is strong. GoPro is now a seamless storytelling experience and we're very happy with customer reception so far," said Woodman in a press release. Now, one of those promising new products -- the foldable Karma drone -- is already being recalled, just two weeks after it launched.

A small number of Karma owners reported that the drones unexpectedly lost power during operation. As a result, GoPro is recalling all 2,500 units of the Karma drone that have sold since the product was released on Oct. 23.

GoPro is currently investigating the reason for the unexpected power failure, and the company is offering refunds in the meantime. There are no replacements currently available, and all sales of the drone have been temporarily suspended.

GoPro is best known for its action cameras, but the launch of its first drone was highly anticipated by tech enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. There haven't been any reports of injuries or property damage, but the possibility of a drone suddenly losing power while it is flying is still a serious safety concern. Consumers are warned that all Karma drones need to be returned, even if they appear to be working just fine.

Woodman stated, "We have moved quickly to recall all units of Karma and provide a full refund while we investigate the issue. We are working in close coordination with both the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We are very sorry to have inconvenienced our customers and we are taking every step to make the return and refund process as easy as possible."

However, the CPSC does not actually regulate consumer drones, so there won't be a joint announcement about the recall. A CPSC spokesperson tells ZDNet that although it was helpful to have an advanced notice that GoPro would be making the announcement, that's where the Commission's involvement ends. Ultimately, the FAA has sole jurisdiction over any type of drone.

UPDATE: the FAA sent ZDNet the following statement.

The FAA has jurisdiction over aircraft, including drones. Under the FAA's small UAS rule, pilots are required to ensure their drone is in a safe condition for operation. If a drone manufacturing defect that affects aviation safety is identified, the FAA would first contact the manufacturer to understand the issue and determine the best course-of-action to address the safety issue. The FAA is available to work with manufacturers to inform the public about the situation.
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