Winner of 2020 Tibbetts Award

3 min

Soaring and Diving into Innovation: SubUAS Wins the 2020 Tibbetts Award

In an era where technological innovation continues to blur the lines between the domains of air and water, SubUAS, LLC, a pioneering firm based in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, has emerged as a beacon of innovation. SubUAS has been honored with the prestigious 2020 Tibbetts Award, a testament to their groundbreaking development in drone technology. Their creation, a drone capable of flying, floating, swimming, diving, and transitioning between air and water in less than one second, is not just an engineering marvel but a leap into the future of unmanned vehicles.

A Dream Takes Flight

This remarkable achievement stems from the ingenious minds of Dr. F. Javier Diez and Dr. Marco Maia at Rutgers University. With over $5 million in funding from the Navy and the Department of Defense, through the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs, their vision took to the skies and plunged into the depths, culminating in the Naviator platform.

The Naviator: A Symphony of Innovation

The Naviator is not your typical drone. It eschews the limitations of traditional tethered underwater Remote Operating Vehicles (ROVs) and other platforms by offering tetherless operation with remote pilot control, autonomous mission capabilities, and a scalability that accommodates various sizes and payloads. Its capacity to rapidly deploy, coupled with its speedy transition from air to water, allows it to outpace existing ROVs both in deployment and target acquisition.

Optimized for a variety of sensors, cameras, and payloads, the Naviator boasts a 16-foot wingspan, a payload capacity of 0-90+ lbs, and advanced features such as precise GPS, visual position hold, and a power-saving buoy sentry mode. These characteristics not only enhance its operational efficiency but also expand its utility across commercial, research, and military applications.

The Journey of SubUAS

Founded in 2016, SubUAS has grown from a fledgling startup to a significant player in the drone technology sector, thanks in large part to the STTR program. This program facilitated a fruitful collaboration with Rutgers University, providing SubUAS access to specialized researchers, advanced testing facilities, and a direct talent pipeline essential for the company’s growth and the technology’s development.

Today, SubUAS boasts a team of 15, including 10 specialized engineers, marking a tenfold increase in employment. With Phase III contracts exceeding $4 million, one of which involves constructing low-cost air/water vehicles for the Navy with options for up to 400 units, SubUAS is setting the pace for innovation in unmanned vehicle technology.

A Vision Broadened

SubUAS’s participation in the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as one of 14 small businesses in the SBIR pavilion further underscored its pioneering status. This unique opportunity allowed the company to network with industry leaders, SBIR and DoD officials, broadening the horizons for the Naviator technology.

The story of SubUAS and its Naviator platform is a powerful narrative of innovation, collaboration, and technological advancement. As they continue to develop and manufacture components in-house in their expanded office and workspace, the future looks promising for SubUAS. Their journey reflects a relentless pursuit of excellence and a commitment to redefining the possibilities of unmanned vehicle technology.

For more information about SubUAS and the Naviator, visit The Tibbetts Award website.

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