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Drones passing test as sentinels at sanctuaries: Sophisticated craft are transitioning into civilian roles

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KEY LARGO, Fla. — Lt. j.g. Kyle Salling stood on the bow of a 24-foot boat in Florida Bay, holding what looked like a large model airplane. With the propellers gently whirling, and the small red and green aviation lights on, Sims launched the 13-pound aircraft like he was throwing a javelin.

The remote-controlled Puma AE banked upward into the sky and began heading toward its target, a mangrove island called Pigeon Key about a quarter-mile away in the vast Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

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