Professor Diez's Naviator Takes Flight on Social Media

It’s not often a university-led research effort captures the Internet Zeitgeist, but with nearly 10 million views over the course of a week Professor Javier Diez’s “Naviator” seems to have tapped into the public’s interest in a big way.

Researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s Applied Fluids Lab, under the direction of Diez, invented a remotely controlled drone similar to those used by hobbyists and professionals globally, but with one key difference – it is able to both fly and move underwater. Funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, a prototype was announced earlier this month, which included the video demonstration for Rutgers Today that also appeared on social media through a Facebook reposting. In addition to garnering nearly 10 million views in just one week, the video received thousands of likes and shares. The news was also picked up by the Discovery Channel, the Times of London, Popular Mechanics, Big Ten Network, NJTV, and more.

Work is ongoing, as the drone at present is only a prototype. Future iterations will see practical use as bridge inspectors, topographers to map oil spills or passageways, and more. To get to that point, the Naviator will first need to be upgraded to a point where it can carry a payload and see greater endurance on a single charge. Also, the vehicle is currently tethered for communication.

The goal is to “cut the cord,” for the next iterations and use both radio (for air) and acoustics (for underwater) communications. “Advancements to the Naviator are happening quickly as more interest is generated through not only the Navy, but corporate and other funding partners,” said Diez. “The social media interest we’ve seen over the past week is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the opportunities the Naviator can provide corporate and governmental organizations.”

For more information on partnerships, contact Professor F. Javier Diez.