"They have experience from the war, which matches with the research needs," NARA chairman Hiran Jayewardene said.
Sri Lanka's military used UAVs extensively in a war with Tamil Tiger separatists which ended in May 2009.
Jayewardene, a marine researcher with international experience was invited back to head NARA, which was set up 30 years ago with his participation by the island's current fisheries minister Rajitha Senaratne.
Jayewardene helped develop methods now used to demarcate ocean bed allocations by the United Nations at the time he was a doctoral student at Cambridge University, Senaratne said.
NARA researchers are also in talks with the French oceanographic and geophysical research unit to collaborate on the use of underwater gliders for marine research.
"These gliders can be pre-programmed to go on a path, collect data and return," Kanapathipilli Arulanandan, who heads NARA's oceanography unit, said.
The gliders have sensors which can collect data on underwater conditions, including temperature and light levels at various depths, officials said."This is a wonderful tool for a small country like ours. We are hoping that the French will collaborate," Jayewardene said.
"It runs at approximately a one kilometer an hour, very slowly. And it uses very little energy and it can go deep down into the ocean; it can be programmed to gather data. It can go up and down it can go in a zigzag pattern, it can go in a vertical pattern.
"It periodically comes to the surface and it transmits data through satellite to the shore."