GoPro Developing Line of Consumer Drones

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GoPro Inc. is developing its own line of consumer drones to expand from its core business of making wearable video cameras popular with surfers and other sports enthusiasts, according to people familiar with its plans.

The company intends to start selling multirotor helicopters equipped with high-definition cameras late next year, aiming for a price tag between $500 and $1,000, these people said.

The entry of a big consumer-electronics brand to the drone market signals how mainstream—and lucrative—the industry has become in just a few years.

Consumers have flocked to unmanned aircraft in recent years as technological advances have made them smaller, cheaper and easier to fly, leaving regulators scrambling to keep up.

Consumer drones are typically lightweight helicopters with cameras that can be controlled with a tablet computer or smartphone. U.S. regulators allow their use by hobbyists. The devices are expected to be hot sellers this holiday season and have even inspired their own version of the selfie, or self-portrait photo, called a “dronie.”

GoPro’s move into drones comes as its market-leading camcorder business faces competition from rivals such as Sony Corp. The 10-year old company, which went public in June, has been investing heavily in research and development to maintain its lead in the camera business, which shipped nearly 2.8 million units in the first nine months of the year, up 15% from the same period last year.

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