GoPro’s new camera is the Hero10 Black Bones – and you solder it to a drone

When GoPro said it was going to build more specialized cameras this year, we weren’t quite sure what it meant. Today, it unveils the GoPro Hero10 Black Bones, a stripped-down version of its flagship camera intended explicitly for FPV drone pilots like the one that famously swept through that bowling alley last year. The idea is that pilots attach one of these to their drone to film brilliant footage while using a separate low-latency analog camera and FPV goggles to see where their drone is going.

When I say economize, I mean no screens, no speaker, no door, no waterproofing, and no battery in this thing: The $500 ($350-$400 with subscription) camera is the first GoPro ever made that requires soldering skills, the company tells me.

The Hero10 black bones.
Image: GoPro

Why? Because GoPro saw that its customers were already cutting their GoPros in half to keep their aerobatic flying movie-making tools in the air longer, and the company realized it could do better. “You’ve seen the rise of videos like flying to the bowling alley, or even the latest Tesla Gigafactory video — they’re all made by people who took the time to try and make a GoPro lighter,” Pablo Lema, GoPro’s lead product , tells The edge in conversation

Lema says some pilots literally cut open their cameras to reduce their weight by removing unnecessary components, but that could lead to overheating, especially during takeoff and landing. So GoPro’s new Bones brings its flagship Hero10 Black’s sensor, lens, processor and long-impressive HyperSmooth built-in stabilization software to a newly vented, heatsink-equipped barebones camera that weighs just 54 grams.

It’s the lightest GoPro ever, just over a third the weight of the original Hero10 Black, and lighter than the 74 gram, cuboid GoPro Session that didn’t exactly shake up the action cam world in 2015. of course to be expected if you lose many of the things that make a GoPro a GoPro, including that battery.

It’s even smaller without a GoPro mount. It has a replaceable cover lens, compatible with Hero10 and Hero9 ND filters.
Image: GoPro

“To make a camera that would allow a dad to film his kid in the pool without a hitch, we had to make it a little bigger and a little heavier,” says Lema of the original GoPros you know (and maybe Love) . But now the company is experimenting with giving niche but growing populations of customers the specialized GoPros they might want. “We’re pretty uniquely positioned to attack unique verticals in image capture that other companies frankly don’t have or wouldn’t have the appetite or technology for.”

FPV is one of those opportunities, says Lema, who says it’s become a pretty important perspective for cinematographers. He also says that customers will not shy away from a soldering station for this product; fixing motors and control circuitry is how they build their drones to begin with.

And that’s one place the Bones does a neat trick: it has a built-in control circuit, so you don’t have to worry about how much voltage your LiPo is delivering. It runs on anything from 5 to 27 volts, so you can fly whether your drone has a relatively slack 2S or a rechargeable lithium battery up to 6S. “You can solder this into your drone’s battery wires and it works fine,” Lema says.

You can also control it from your drone’s controller. If you don’t want to use the two physical buttons or the GoPro app or optional remote, there’s a third wire that you can plug into a flight controller and control using something like the open-source Betaflight software or GoPro’s Open GoPro APIs. “You can develop any software you want,” says Lema. However, GoPro doesn’t yet offer the ability to read raw images directly from the camera, so it may not be ready for the computer vision applications you’re thinking about right now.

It’s a little wild to see GoPro somehow enter the drone market after its high-profile failure to launch in 2018. When I ask, Lema smiles and says no, there are no plans to make another drone from now on. But he hints that more purpose-built GoPros are on the way for other use cases that may seem niche today — where if you asked today’s GoPro users where they need a slightly different kind of camera, they’d have a ready answer. to have. (I wonder if VR video is still on the table.)

DJI has recently shown that it also sees opportunities in FPV. After years of largely ignoring that sector of drones, it released its own FPV racing goggles and flight camera in 2019, as well as a full FPV drone in 2021. For non-FPV applications, drone makers like DJI had long done away with GoPro. While the original Phantom drones and once promising rivals like the 3D Robotics Solo were explicitly designed to carry GoPros, they quickly replaced them with relatively small purpose-built cameras that were easier to manipulate with a motorized gimbal.

The Hero10 Black Bones is available today exclusively on gopro.com, with no in-store availability, for $350 for existing GoPro subscribers, $400 with a one-year subscription or $500 without. Yes, that seems to mean the camera costs more than you do not want a free $50 plan that includes camera replacement and cloud backup — we ask GoPro why.

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