Federal officials have been testing the use of drones for monitoring environmental conditions and wildlife in marine sanctuaries, including the one off the Florida Keys.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been testing the small, remote-controlled aircraft for 18 months in marine sanctuaries in California, Georgia, Washington and Hawaii. Last week, officials tried out the drones in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Lt. j.g. Tanner Sims of NOAA's Commissioned Officer Corps tells The Miami Herald a drone's viewpoint from 200 feet above an island or reef gives officials a "much better idea of how multiple things are interacting in that environment."

Sanctuary officials say the drones could be used for wildlife surveys, assessments of boat propeller damage, oil spill monitoring and for documenting marine and shoreline debris.