Las Vegas was lousy with drones this past week. Flying machines buzzed over crowds in the convention center, their rotors close enough to push back your hair. Swarms of them conducted synchronized dance numbers, dipping and rising in time to music. It was the biggest selection of unmanned aerial systems ever to hit the Consumer Electronics Show, included a handful of debuts, and a flock of previously announced and availables. But more than the quantity of drones on hand was their breadth and variety, proof of the explosive growth of the commercial drone industry, despite the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to issue clear rules for their use in the United States. Whenever those regulations are ready, the robots will be prepped for takeoff.
The industry, fast-growing, is already large enough to spawn a variety of drone sizes and designs, including miniature bots that fit in the palm of your hand, and models strong enough to heft a 20-pound payload. There was a drone that uses computer vision to follow a clothing logo. Another system was small enough to launch from the palm of your hand, and nimble enough to execute a complete flip. From the models worth pre-ordering or crowdfunding to systems more appropriate for movie productions and border patrols, here’s a look at the state of consumer drones in 2015.