Drone adept at flying through the air and swimming underwater


The U.S. Navy has awarded Rutgers a grant to develop a drone adept at flying through the air and swimming underwater. It could improve search-and-rescue operations, monitor the spread of oil spills, and inspect underwater structures.

Marco M. Maia

By Air and by Sea
U.S. Navy turns to Rutgers to develop multipurpose drone.

The Office of Naval Research, the research-and-development arm of the U.S. Navy, has awarded Rutgers a $618,000 grant to develop a drone—equally adept at flying through the air and swimming underwater—that could speed search-and-rescue operations, monitor the spread of oil spills, and inspect underwater structures such as bridge and dock piers, ship hulls, and oil-drilling platforms. Perhaps most importantly, the drone could help the Navy rapidly identify threats from underwater mines.

Javier Diez, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the School of Engineering, had been  pursuing the idea for years with the help of his graduate and under­graduate students. When he demonstrated it to Navy research-and- development officials in early 2015, they quickly funded his work on new versions of the air-and-water craft.

“By next summer, we plan to demonstrate a vehicle that can swim in a seawater environment and do complex maneuvers,” says Diez. “At that point, we’ll start to outfit it with whatever sensors the Navy wants to have, such as cameras and sonar detectors.” 

— Carl Blesch

Graphic of battery

Waste Not, Want Not
U.S. asks Rutgers to create center for developing energy-saving tools.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a four-year $12 million grant to establish a new research center to accelerate the development of materials that improve energy efficiency and boost energy production. The center, hosted by the department’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, will be led by Gabriel Kotliar, Board of Governors Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the School of Arts and Sciences. The award formalizes a growing collaboration between Rutgers and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The team’s research will look into creating advanced materials for high-temperature superconductors and other energy initiatives, including technologies that convert heat to electricity to increase energy resources and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The new endeavor, called the Center for Computational Design of Functional Strongly Correlated Materials and Theoretical Spectroscopy, will develop software and databases that catalog the essential physics and chemistry of these materials to help other researchers and industrial scientists develop useful new materials more quickly. Rutgers physics professor Kristjan Haule will lead a lab at Rutgers that supports the research, including developing and storing simulation tools to predict properties of materials.

The center, one of three funded by the energy department, supports the U.S. government’s Materials Genome Initiative, a multiagency effort to reduce the time from discovery to deploying new advanced materials.

Chart showing Rutgers funding on the Rase

Funding on the Rise
Rutgers registers gains in financial support for research and programs.

Despite cutbacks in federal research support for U.S. universities—the primary source of grants for most schools—Rutgers achieved an 18 percent increase in overall funding for research and sponsored programs over the last year, from $517.4 million in fiscal year 2014 to $611.8 million in fiscal year 2015.

Rutgers brought in 11 percent more federal research dollars, from $272.1 million in 2014 to $303.2 million in 2015, coming at a time when overall research funding by most federal agencies was essentially unchanged, from the previous year, according to Christopher J. Molloy, the university’s senior vice president for research and economic development. Molloy Pharm’77, GSNB’87, who oversees the university’s effort to expand Rutgers’ collaborations with industry, said that research support from corporations went up by more than 30 percent, from $23.8 million to $31.0 million. Meanwhile, state funding for research and sponsored programs increased by nearly 37 percent, from $130.0 million to $177.8 million. And Rutgers’ research funding from foundations increased by about 9 percent, from $91.5 million to $99.8 million in 2015.