According tomedia, the owner of GoPro Karma has been unable to use drones since the beginning of the new year, according to dozens of forum posts and tweets. The problem is affecting GoPro Karma owners worldwide, which appears to be related to the recent “weekly flip” problem in GPS and GLONASS satellite systems. While most technology companies have tried to avoid transition issues by releasing software updates over the past few months, GoPro has not updated Karma since September 2018, nine months after the shutdown.
Multiple owners said their Karma controller displayed an error because it did not receive a GPS signal and could not calibrate the compass. Even with GPS disabled, they simply can’t use drones, although some claim to have solved the problem by factory reset controllers and turn off GPS. A GoPro spokesman told The Verge that the company’s engineering team was “actively troubleshooting” the issue, but did not provide more information.
Here’s how foreign correspondent James Vincent described the GPS week flip problem last year:
The number of weeks flip problem itself is caused by the GPS system calculating the number of weeks in a space of only 10 bits. This means that they start counting from week 0 and reset when they reach week 1024. The first count (or “GPS era”) began on January 6, 1980, and the first reset occurred on August 21, 1999. This means that the next count will expire on April 6 this year.
When week-of-week flips occur, older devices may reset their dates, potentially damaging navigation data and losing location estimates. GPS relies on precise timing data, and for every nanosecond clock output, it translates into a one-foot positioning error.
GLONASS has had similar problems and is said to have been reset by the end of 2019 (or early 2020).
GoPro Karma has been problematic since the first (and now only) drone went on sale in 2016. GoPro Karma was recovered a few weeks after its release due to poor design of the battery latch structure. When the company started selling the product, it struggled to gain more market share, but ultimately couldn’t make enough money on the drone to prove it was working.
GoPro pulled out of the drone business in January 2018 and laid off hundreds of employees working on the Karma project. The company said at the time that it would “continue to provide service and support to Karma customers”, although it never said when the support would end. It is not clear how many owners will be affected, as GoPro has never disclosed the total number of sales before or after the termination of Karma.