Simply put, flying the Karma is bit boring. There’s no drama or fuss or nonsense in using the drone. It just works and works well. The Karma flies smooth and level. It’s not darty, though it can quickly turn and change directions. In the air, the Karma feels like a sport utility vehicle rather than a hot hatchback.
It takes just a minute or two to unpack the drone and get it into the sky. This is where the Karma stands apart from competitors. After removing it from the case, the prop arms and landing gear swing into place. Hit the power button on top of the remote and once the drone connects to GPS (this takes about a minute) it can be launched.
This simplicity is the Karma’s main draw: take it out of its case and it’s flying a minute or two later. Both taking off and landing is done through dedicated buttons. Pilots are not required to connect a smartphone to get a point-of-view video feed, and there’s no learning curve with the Karma.
In the air, the drone is smooth and predictable. Let go of the controls and it hovers in place, though not as well as other drones. The Karma tends to drift around a bit when hovering — not a lot, but more than other new drones. Mash the control sticks and the drone responds without hesitation. The Karma has no problem flying mere inches off the ground or rapidly changing directions though I find the Phantom drones a bit more agile.
The Karma tops off at 35 mph, which is faster than older drones, but a bit slow compared to other drones just now hitting the market.
Range is not an issue with the Karma. Its maximum flight distance is 3,000m, which in most cases is far enough for the pilot to lose sight of the drone, breaking one of the key FAA rules of piloting a drone of keeping the drone in visible range. However, many other drones available around the Karma’s price now have a range of 5,000 meters or farther.
The Karma is easy to fly thanks mostly to the controller. It’s great. The Karma comes with the best controller of any drone TechCrunch has tested, and both experienced and novice pilots will appreciate the built in screen, ergonomics and ease of use.
The controller is packaged like a portable game system. Flipping up the lid reveals a large LCD screen and controls. Camera controls are mounted on the shoulders making for a natural control scheme — flight controls are done with the pilot’s thumbs and the camera is controlled with the pointer finger.
This controller is one of the reasons I like the Karma so much. The built-in screen means pilots do not have to hassle with connecting a phone or tablet to the drone or controller. Just flip up the lid and start flying.
The battery is one of the Karma’s weak spots. It’s massive and provides less than 20 minutes of flight time. Realistically, expect about 18 minutes of flight time. After that, the controller alerts the pilot of the very low battery and the drone automatically returns to its launch site and