Report: GoPro planning to launch consumer drones “late next year”

GoPro, best known for its small video cameras that turn snowboarders into YouTube sensations, is planning to launch a consumer drone, according to a new report in the Wall Street JournalCiting people familiar with GoPro’s plans, the WSJ says that the company is preparing multirotor drones that cost between $500 and $1,000 for a late 2015 launch.

Given that a lot of people buy consumer drones for aerial photography, GoPro-branded drones will be equipped with high-definition cameras. Currently, the GoPro action camera is commonly mounted to the underside of consumer drones because it is small, light, and most drone makers make mounts specifically for the camera.

For instance, China-based DJI is currently the leading consumer drone company by revenue. When you navigate to its page for the Phantom 2, its primary consumer quadcopter, the banner image shows the drone equipped with a GoPro. It’s even described as a “ready to fly aerial filming system with GoPro mount.” But recently announced DJI drones have DJI-designed cameras pre-installed.

DJI's landing page for its Phantom 2 includes an image of a GoPro camera.

DJI’s landing page for its Phantom 2 includes an image of a GoPro Hero camera.

The report didn’t specify whether the cameras included in GoPro’s drones would be its existing line of action cameras or new devices specifically tailored for drone use.

GoPro could easily become the brand name with the most name recognition in the nascent consumer drone world. Aside from DJI, major drone companies include 3DRobotics, which just launched a new octocopter that comes with a GoPro as an optional accessory, and Parrot, which makes an affordable $300 quadcopter.

Established drone companies should have have a bit of a head start in terms of software and features, but GoPro has a superior distribution network and considerable brand loyalty from the kind of action sports and stunts performers who might be tempted to pick up their first drone.

Since [company]GoPro[/company] went public earlier this year, it has made noise about using its strong customer base in the action sports world to launch a media network. But ultimately, adding flying capabilities to its popular cameras makes more sense as a new area of focus for the company — after all, there are already a lot of GoPro cameras flying the skies.