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WASHINGTON — Drone aircraft are typically associated with surprise air assaults on terrorists. Drones designed to do the bidding of ordinary people can be bought online for $300 or less.
They are often no larger than hubcaps, with tiny propellers that buzz the devices hundreds of feet into the air. But these flying machines are much more sophisticated than your average remote-controlled airplane: They can fly autonomously, find locations via GPS, return home with the push of a button, and carry high-definition cameras to record flight.
They have been used for all kinds of high-minded purposes — helping farmers map their crops, monitoring wildfires in remote areas, and locating poachers in Africa. One local drone user is recording his son’s athletic prowess from a bird’s eye view.