Researchers in the Bering Sea off Alaska's west coast will get help this summer from drones, but not the kind that fly.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and private researchers are gathering data on marine mammals, fish and ocean conditions from two "autonomous sailing vessels" built by Saildrone, an Alameda, California, company.

"Think of a 20-foot outrigger canoe with an airplane wing sticking up from the middle," said Chris Sabine, director of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, at a press teleconference Friday.

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