At this stage in the game, the best camera for your drone is probably the one that came with it. In the unlikely event that you have a drone that did not come with a camera, a GoPro is a solid option. Of course, it may be that you have a GoPro camera and just want to put it into the sky, a task that was common before the GoPro Karma hit the scene, but is a dying sport these days.
The action camera with a reputation for being able to do it all goes airborne in this list of best GoPro drones. It’s too bad the Karma was quickly discontinued, but, here are the drones we would recommended instead.
Let’s set some ground rules: With a touch of DIY, any drone that is strong enough to take on an additional 4 ounces, about 180 grams, can be a GoPro drone. Today we wish to talk about drones that have official gimbals designed for the action camera. More than this, we will focus on drones that actually connect to the GoPro camera, able to stream live video back to your controller and more, in the same way that FPV video streams to your remote with one of the best camera drones out there.
Let’s get started.
GoPro Karma (Discontinued)
Update: Karma is discontinued.
Who better to put a GoPro camera into the sky than the company themselves? Sure, they had to recall their flying efforts, but we, or at least I, applaud them for their rapid response and focus on safety. Now that I know that the problem was, essentially, nothing more than a compartment latch failing to close properly, I can put the idea of their drone being a failure out of mind.
The inclusion of the Karma Grip, a hand-held unit that accompanies the Karma drone, sharing the actual gimbal between the two, is a powerful tool. One can enjoy stabilized video from the sky or from the ground for less than a thousand dollars. Not many drones alone can say that.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the GoPro Karma, we had it in house last year, but it was recalled before we got airborne. This time we’ll fly, and you’ll get to hear all about it.
The drone is still on store shelves, but once inventory runs out, that’s it.
Update January 2018: We are seeing reports that GoPro is cutting hundreds of jobs from the Karma team. Now we are seeing official word, Karma is discontinued. We’ve certainly seen no new progress or updates from the division. We are recommending you hold off buying this drone for now. Let’s see what GoPro has in store for their drone at CES 2018. (This was written just a day before GoPro officially shut down the Karma program.)
Hubsan H109S Pro (Discontinued)
Hubsan H109S Pro
January 2017Release Date
Hubsan may be popular for their smaller toy-class drones, but they build some serious gear as well. The Hubsan H109S Pro is a larger drone in their lineup, large enough to carry a GoPro. Out of the box, the H109S Pro has its own GoPro-sized camera installed, a 1080p shooter that was good in its time, but is far inferior to a modern GoPro. This is a simple machine and the gimbal is not stabilized, but if you are looking for a drone that is made to carry a GoPro camera, this is one of the best from a toy-class manufacturer.
Available in three models, the Standard offers the solid gimbal, the Advanced bumps up to a 3-axis gimbal, and the Professional has the 3-axis gimbal and updated controller with larger built-in display.
Check out the Hubsan H109S Pro starting from $319. The We must mention, this drone, like most machines made for GoPro cameras, is discontinued. You can still find it for sale, and it is still supported by Hubsan, for now.
AirDog ADII (Discontinued)
The latest version in the AirDog action sports drone line-up, the ADII, is a different take on flying cameras. Instead of packing a normal remote, you get the AirLeash, a waterproof systems management tool with built-in tracking tools. The AirDog ADII is designed to keep you, with the AirLeash strapped to your arm, as the focal point of video capture. Connect in your GoPro camera and go have some fun, the AirDog ADII will keep up.
We went hands-on with the AirDog ADII, check it out.
Check out the AirDog ADII Kickstarter campaign now. Early backers can get in as low as $999, full retail is set for later 2017 at $1500.
DJI Phantom 2 (Discontinued)
As seen in our DJI Phantom drones guide
Say what now?!? Hear me out, admitting that this drone should sit near the bottom of this list, it is the target Phantom for the best GoPro gimbal DJI has produced. Needless to say, DJI is now in full competition with DJI over drones and cameras, but back in the day, the Phantom 2 was basically king of the sky for GoPro cameras.
Truth is, it is the DJI Zenmuse H4-3D Gimbal that is the hero here. Designed to handle the Hero4 Black camera, the H4-3D can mount on a number of DJI drones. However, we’ve really moved beyond this. If you want the best that DJI has to offer, mounting a GoPro camera is not the answer. The Phantom 2 for $594 including the gimbal on Amazon is not really an enticing option, it used to be about $400, that was worth it.
3DR Solo (Discontinued)
June 2015Release Date
The 3DR Solo was one of the best drones in its time. This large and powerful machine was made to haul a GoPro, and it did so very well with a 3-axis stabilized gimbal (worth more than the drone itself) and quality peripherals to enhance the flight. 3DR themselves have shifted their focus greatly since the Solo began to lag behind others in the market. 3DR is almost entirely a services and software company now, offering site scan packages using drones from multiple other manufacturers, that said, these are drones that accomplish what the Solo did in the early days.
The 3DR Solo has big, powerful motors, a large battery and versatile payload mount. The machine is sturdy with a plastic housing and LED lights on each corner. The landing gear are not wimpy, but they are a little fragile feeling. Considering some of the antenna are in those legs, we recommend getting spares, just in case.
The 3DR Solo is a stable drone, hovering quite well and is fairly smooth. We don't recommend relying on the non-stabilized GoPro mount for your camera, but the results are not terrible. As mentioned, the stabilized gimbal sells for more than the drone these days, it also supports up to the Hero4 camera, so we have a really hard time recommending it at this point. Still if you are looking for a solid and reliable drone for other uses, the 3DR Solo is a great option.
We've seen some crazy deals on this discontinued drone, but you should expect to find the 3DR Solo for around $399.
Let me make this super quick, if you can still find these discontinued drones for sale, make sure to look at the 3DR Solo and the Yuneec Typhoon G.
A little DIY
Truth is, it is really hard to find a current drone that fully supports GoPro today. The camera itself is far larger than comparable cameras on camera drones, the stabilization is great, but not made to account for the tilt and yaw of a drone, and GoPro do not offer the sort of zooming lenses that make newer drones capable of perform tasks beyond basic aerial imagery.
You may not be able to remotely control your GoPro, nor see the live view of what it is capturing from the sky, but it takes just a bit of double-sided tape to attach to near any drone.
We are going to call our list quits at that folks. The truth is, there are more than a few drones that can carry a GoPro camera, but most manufacturers have opted to build their own cameras these days. Top makers like DJI have camera tech that exceeds that of the currently available GoPro models, for a price of course. Lower end and toy class drone makers are including much smaller and lighter, if far less capable cameras, in order to save money and still offer a controllable camera option.
GoPro produces a fine camera, but it’s just not the ideal device for flight anymore. If you disagree, it’s a good thing that it takes very simple accessories to attach your GoPro to your drone. Just try to keep it balanced and don’t forget to hit record before you take off.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are GoPros good drone cameras?
Ultimately, no, GoPro cameras are not the best drone cameras. Make no mistake, most drone cameras use the same sensors as a GoPro, producing similar final images, the reason we steer away from GoPros on drones is that they are fairly large and heavy, and the image stabilization is usually unable to keep up with the amount of twisting and turning that drones are capable of. A drone with a 3-axis stabilization system on it will almost always create better aerial video than a GoPro. That said, slap a smaller GoPro on a racing drone and the footage is super fun!
Can I have a GoPro and my drone’s camera?
Yes, as long as your airframe can handle carrying the weight, there is nothing stopping you from using multiple cameras on the same drone. At this stage in the drone market, you will have a hard time finding a flying machine that has native GoPro controls, so you should expect to hit start on the GoPro before you take off, and be prepared to record until the drone lands again. Please make sure the camera is solidly affixed, you don’t want to lose your camera, nor risk crashing the drone if the GoPro falls into a propeller.
Is it safe to use GoPro alternatives on GoPro drones?
It is safe, yes, and the cameras will likely mount very securely, but the drone software is unlikely to support alternative cameras. This means you will likely not get a live video feed, you probably also won’t be able to control the camera remotely. If your camera fits the mount on the drone, and it offers stabilization, however, there’s a good chance you still capture some excellent footage from the sky.
Why aren’t there any new drones on this list?
As we mentioned in the beginning, GoPro cameras are fun and functional for many purposes, but they are actually not great for drones. Consider that the camera on the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is less than half the size of a normal GoPro, and less than half the weight, but produces the same, or better, results. The Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic Air 2 also compare in image quality, and those cameras are around a quarter of the size and weight of a GoPro.
More important, those DJI cameras mentioned have built-in 3-axis Gimbals, and the software is baked into the drone. Some old-school Gimbals for GoPro cameras are larger than the entire Mavic Air 2 drone, and the software only supports very old GoPro cameras. Honestly, DJI and GoPro are in a bit of a (silent?) competition, so when the largest drone manufacturer on the globe refuses to support GoPro cameras, the viability of slapping a GoPro on a drone is low.