That speck of color some 800 feet from the research vessel Paragon is part of an advanced seagoing robot, a drone, and the wing contains its antenna—which is talking to a satellite, which is talking to our skipper's cell phone.
Once we're alongside the machine, a scientist stretches to snag a loop on the 100-pound robot with a hooked pole, then starts hefting the drone up. Another researcher grabs halfway down the body, and together the two men lug the drone aboard and gingerly place it on a stand. It's 6 feet long and shaped like an airliner, with two wings and a tail fin, and bears the message "OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTRUMENT PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB." All caps considered, though, it's a more innocuous epigram than the one on a drone I saw back at the dock: "Not a weapon—Science Instrument."