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For all the unique challenges and advantages flying robots bring, the story of drones borrows from several familiar tales. It’s a story about companies shrinking the size and price tag of electronics. It’s about scientists and engineers developing lighter and more compact sensors. It’s about military technology gliding peacefully into civilian life. For a primer on the various types of drones being harnessed for scientific research, C&EN turned to two experts: Michael G. Wing of Oregon State University, who’s building a catalog of small research drones, and Greg Crutsinger, who works for the drone developer 3D Robotics helping schools and students adopt these flying tools.