What the Heck Is Going on With GoPro's Grounded Karma Drones? [Updated]

Illustration for article titled What the Heck Is Going on With GoPros Grounded Karma Drones? [Updated]
Image: GoPro

The new year appears to be off to a bumpy start for some owners of GoPro Karma drones amid user reports that they’re unable to fly their devices due to an issue with compass calibration.

GoPro users have turned to Twitter and a community forum to report issues with the device’s GPS and compass functionality, the Verge first reported. Dozens of users in a thread on GoPro’s forum reported that they weren’t able to fly the drones as a result of the issue that began after the start of the new year.

In response to a user thread on Twitter about the ongoing issue, GoPro responded by saying that it was “aware of the issue” and that it was “working towards a resolution.” In a separate response to yet another user on Sunday, the company tweeted that it would “definitely post an update once we hear back from our product team. Thank you for your patience and understanding.” But no such follow-up has since been shared, and the company did not return multiple requests for comment on Monday.


A spokesperson told the Verge that GoPro’s engineering team was “actively troubleshooting the issue” but reportedly declined to comment on the issue further. The issue may be related to GLONASS satellite systems and a clock “rollover” that could interfere with the device’s functionality, though the company has not publicly identified the source of the issue. GLONASS, or Global Navigation Satellite System, is a satellite navigation system that is used in addition to GPS by the device. A rollover can interfere with a device’s navigation data and affect the device.

As GoPro appears to be working on the issue, it’s likely the company will issue a patch relatively soon. We’ll update this post with more information when we hear back.

Update 1/7/20 8:30 a.m. ET: On Monday, GoPro posted a blog post notifying users that it had “identified the cause [of the issue] and a fix is in the works,adding that information about a firmware update for the Karma drones would be available within the week right here. The company also provided some information about the cause of the issue.


Without making this TL;DR, here’s some technical information on the root of the issue: Consumer electronics products, like Karma, which we stopped producing in January of 2018, rely on the World Magnetic Model to provide accurate positioning services,” the company wrote.Late last week, after the New Year, we began to receive reports of users not being able to calibrate the compass on Karma. After investigation, we found that the World Magnetic Model stored in Karma experienced an issue when we clicked over to 2020.”

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Lawl at people who expected an instant fix. This is for a product from a division they discontinued two years ago and laid off most of the staff. It hasn’t had a firmware update for well over a year.

It’s going to take some time to even fire up the dev kits, get them working again, does anyone know where the latest source code is (hopefully they at least have decent version control), oh no, the dev PCs were repurposed for something else, shit, does anyone even HAVE a working Karma we can use? Whoops, this dev PC needs 200 Windows updates, someone’s got to get all familiar with the code again, and all this before they can even start debugging the actual problem.

Then once they find the problem they’ve got to fix it without causing other problems and remember how to do an official build of the firmware (is your build server still in existence? See the above all over again), how to generate a patch, how to deliver it... is any of this shit documented or was there just some guy who knew all the magic commands?

I’ve been on the wrong side of having to resurrect a project that was supposed to be dead - everything that can break will break and it just takes time to work through each one.  And of course since this is a dead product it’s not like it’s anyone’s highest priority.