Rutgers Aerial Aquatic Drone Soars Higher and Higher

The Rutgers-developed aerial aquatic drone—the Naviator—continues to gain traction across the country as a leading drone innovation.

The Navy demonstrated its continued support for the Naviator by showcasing the hybrid unmanned vehicle at the Office of Naval Research’s 2017 Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. last week.


The convention follows historic aerial and underwater demonstrations just last month, as the Naviator successfully inspected the Delaware Memorial Bridge and a 100-passenger vessel at the Cape May Ferry Terminal.

“The Naviator’s ability to seamlessly and rapidly transition from flying in the air to maneuvering underwater provides tremendous opportunities for a number of industries and naval operations,” said Diez. “As these recent tests demonstrated, what previously might require a helicopter, boat, and underwater equipment, the Naviator was able to complete as a single deployment with fewer complications and in less time.”

The inspections showcased just a few of the drone’s far-reaching applications—which range from bridge inspections and ocean mapping to search-and-rescue operations.

Developed by researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering under the direction of associate professor F. Javier Diez, the Naviator’s initial prototype was released in 2013. The project gained national attention since then, receiving a $618,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research in 2015.

As an official Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aerial systems testing facility, Rutgers School of Engineering conducts state-of-the-art research to help facilitate the safe integration of drones into the country’s airspace. SubUAS LLC was founded in 2016 to commercialize Rutgers’ drone development.

"The Naviator drone’s ability to repeatedly transition from water to air in less than two seconds has opened up novel markets that will find these capabilities advantageous,” said Mark Contarino, SubUAS LLC vice president of technology.

The Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo was held on July 20 and 21 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The expo takes place every two years as the premier science and technology event of the Navy and Marine Corps co-sponsored by the American Society of Naval Engineers.