The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is testing drones on the Washington coast to monitor sea birds and survey marine debris.
In June, NOAA announced that testing had begun along the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary that could allow researchers to observe animals at relatively close range with minimal disturbance.
The Seattle Times reports a 4-foot-long aircraft was launched recently from a research ship near La Push.
The operations this summer are part of a two-year project to evaluate the costs and benefits of unmanned aircraft for scientific research.
The Puma drone flown off La Push required two operators — one to pilot the craft and one to monitor and capture the video feed on a computer.
Project coordinator Matt Pickett says drones could change the way scientists monitor the ocean.
If successful, unmanned aircraft technology could be used in marine protected areas worldwide.
Agencies throughout the state, including Grays Harbor, have submitted a proposal for a drone research and testing facility in Washington. The proposal provides a testing range over the Pacific Ocean near Grays Harbor for those developers needing “blue water” testing capability.
The final decisions for the flight center are scheduled to be made before December 31, 2013.