The second category, military drones, account for the vast majority (nearly 90%) of worldwide spending on drones.

But after a pivotal year for the civilian drone industry, an interesting space is now opening up in the middle as drones start to be put to a range of commercial uses.

The default thus switched from “commercial use is illegal” to “commercial use is legal under the following conditions”.

Many other countries follow the FAA’s regulatory lead, so this cleared commercial drones for take-off not just in America but worldwide.

“Everyone is moving to a model where we let DJI control most of the on-board stuff and we move all our innovation up the stack to the cloud,” says Mr Anderson.

Pause for reflection Having jumped, funding for drone startups is now maintaining a roughly stable altitude.

As previously happened with smartphones, the fastest innovation is taking place in the consumer market and then being adopted by companies.

And just as with smartphones, people who enjoyed playing with consumer drones realised it made sense to take them to work too, says Jonathan Downey of Airware, a startup that makes drone-management software.At a company office in Shenzhen, Shuo Yang, one of the engineers who worked on the Mavic, proudly demonstrates that it can even respond to hand gestures to follow its owner around or snap a “drone selfie”. In many ways modern consumer drones are more advanced than far more expensive military systems, says Adam Bry of Skydio, a consumer-drone startup that is developing a rival to the Mavic.The best consumer models are now being redeployed for commercial use, often with little or no modification.“These are not military products that were downsized—these are consumer technologies that got better,” says Brendan Schulman, head of policy at Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the Chinese firm that dominates the consumer-drone industry.DJI’s bestselling Mavic, which costs 9, can hold its position in light winds, detect obstacles and land automatically.3D Robotics laid off 150 workers and stopped making hardware altogether last year after its Solo drone failed to dent DJI’s market share.