GoPro Will Crush in the Drone Market

That is, if they do what they already do best.

byMichael Frank| PUBLISHED Dec 28, 2015 10:54 PM
GoPro Will Crush in the Drone Market

We’ve seen this movie before: a tiny company looks at a segment that’s not being fully exploited and blows it apart. A decade ago, that company was GoPro, the segment action cameras. Since then, GoPro has gone from nothing to a $2.5 billion market cap. Yes, the firm has taken its lumps of late, especially from a shareholder perspective, where it’s gone from $65 per share $18. But as GoPro looks to the future, it’s eyeing the drone market and rubbing its hands with excitement. Salvation may soon come.

Over the past year, GoPro has been spending on smaller companies to acquire software capable of creating automated editing for its cameras. That means bouncing footage from your GoPro; feeding it into a smartphone app; adding music and a title sequence; and, voila, posting it on social media, all without a minute spent tethered to a laptop. GoPro’s also gobbled up smaller outfits that have experimented with automated drone flight by using sensors, ensuring your expensive toy doesn’t bounce into a tree. Both innovations are key to GoPro’s success, in selling more action cams and selling flying cameras. The brand already has huge name recognition, so it could put a flying robot on Best Buy shelves tomorrow and do just fine.

The FAA estimates as many as 400,000 drones sold this holiday season. But drones are still relatively expensive and easy to crash; the public is wary of winding up on the local news crashing Christmas toys into a neighbor’s living room. Or worse. All of this suggests there’s a gap between the technology’s promise and delivery, which is precisely what GoPro kills at. The company has just been eying the timing and, perhaps most importantly, waiting to nail a price point competitors can’t touch.

That moment is here. This October, Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon Flight Development system, which the telecom giant says can lower the cost of a $1,200 drone to about $400. While Qualcomm also invested in former Wired editor Chris Anderson’s 3-D Robotics drone startup, that hardly precludes GoPro from also partnering with Qualcomm. Because the latter, a $74 billion company, won’t only partner with one tech startup if it can own the entire market.

My bet: If GoPro can come up with an easier-to-fly drone that’s inexpensive and shoots video (with at least some auto-edit functions), it’ll blow the market wide open.