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.
It was one of several tests that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been conducting for 18 months in marine sanctuaries around the country to see if these unmanned aircraft can be transitioned from military roles into scientific ones.
This week, the Florida Senate passed the Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act, which prevents law enforcement agencies from using drones for routine surveillance. The bill, which passed quickly and unanimously, does allow for the use of unmanned aircraft in special cases, like the threat of a terrorist attack.
During a luncheon speech on drones Thursday at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, homeland security expert Michael Barton said citizens concerned about drones aren't just being paranoid.