When GoPro announced that it would be building more specialized cameras this year, we weren’t sure what that meant. Today it reveals the GoPro Hero10 Black Bones, a scaled-down version of its flagship camera aimed explicitly at FPV drone pilots like the one that blazed in that bowling alley last year. The idea is for pilots to attach one of these to their drone to shoot brilliant footage while using a separate low-latency analog camera and a pair of FPV goggles to see where their drone is going.
When I say cut I mean there are no screens, no speaker, no door, no waterproofing, and no battery Inside This Thing: The $500 camera ($350 to $400 with subscription) is the first GoPro ever made that requires soldering skills, the company tells me.
Why? Because GoPro saw that its customers were already cutting their GoPros in half to keep their aerobatic flying filmmaking tools in the air longer, and the company realized it could do better. “You’ve seen the rise of videos like flying in 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, Chief of GoPro’s product, says The edge on a call.
Lema says some pilots literally open their cameras to reduce weight by removing unnecessary components, but this could lead to overheating, especially during takeoff and landing. So GoPro’s new Bones brings the sensor, lens, processor and HyperSmooth integrated stabilization software from its flagship Hero10 Black to a newly vented, heatsink-equipped barebones camera that weighs just 54 grams.
It’s the lightest GoPro ever, just over a third of the weight of the original Hero10 Black, and it’s lighter than the cube-shaped 74-gram GoPro Session that doesn’t exactly have shook up the action camera world in 2015. Of course, that’s to be expected when you get rid of a lot of the things that make a GoPro a GoPro, including that battery.
“To create a camera that would allow a dad to film his child in the pool without a problem, we had to make it a little bigger, a little heavier,” says Lema of the first GoPros you know (and, perhaps being, love). But now the company is experimenting with giving niche but growing populations of customers the specialized GoPros they might want. “We’re in a pretty unique position to attack unique vertical markets in capturing images that other companies frankly don’t have or wouldn’t have the appetite or the technology to be able to.”
FPV is one of those opportunities, Lema says, saying it’s become quite a big prospect for cinematographers. He also says that customers of this product will not hesitate to use a soldering station; attaching motors and control circuits is how they build their drones to begin with.
And it’s a place where the Bones go for a ride: it has a built-in regulator circuit so you don’t have to worry about the voltage supplied by your LiPo. It will run on anything from 5 to 27 volts so you can fly whether your drone has a relatively weak 2S rechargeable lithium battery or up to 6S. “You can solder this into your drone’s battery wires and it will work just fine,” says Lema.
You can also control it from your drone controller. If you don’t want to use its two physical buttons or the optional GoPro app or remote, there’s a third wire you can connect to a flight controller and use software like Betaflight open source software or Open GoPro APIs from GoPro. “You can develop any software you want,” says Lema. GoPro doesn’t yet offer the ability to read raw footage directly from the camera, so it may not be ready for the computer vision applications you may be thinking of now.
It’s kinda crazy to see GoPro re-enter the drone market in any way after its resounding launch failure in 2018. When I ask, Lema laughs and says no, there are no plans to make another drone for the moment. But he does hint that there are other GoPros specifically designed for other use cases that might seem niche today – where if you asked today’s GoPro users where they need a slightly different kind of camera, they would have a ready made answer. (I’m curious if the VR video is still on the table.)
DJI recently showed that it also sees an opportunity in FPV. After mostly ignoring this drone industry for years, 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 manufacturers as DJI had long outstripped GoPro. While the original Phantom drones and their once-promising rivals like the 3D Robotics Solo were explicitly designed to carry GoPros, they quickly replaced them with cameras specifically designed to be easier to handle with a motorized gimbal.
The Hero10 Black Bones will be available exclusively on gopro.com starting today, with no retail 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 if you don’t want a free subscription worth $50 that includes camera replacement and cloud backup – we ask GoPro why.