“Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s a UAV?”

What’s a UAV? It’s an unmanned aerial vehicle.  Now many of us are familiar with the term drones, which are smaller (and as much as $130 million less expensive) devices that are being used for a wide range of activities from recreation to photography and package delivery.  Some drones are sophisticated and can cost in the thousands of dollars but UAVs are typically more expensive and designed for demanding operations like the delivery of medicines from shore to ship, aerial surveillance and monitoring or combat support.

In the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, which surprisingly is tied with Katrina for inflicting $125 billion in damage, NJII was involved in the use of UAVs to conduct aerial inspection of cell towers that were knocked out of service and unable to support much- needed wireless communications.  The towers requiring immediate attention were identified for ground crews to repair including those that would have to be reached by watercraft. Beyond their aerial inspection capability, and because UAVs can remain airborne for extended periods, they can also serve as temporary cell towers when outfitted with the appropriate equipment.

UAVs represent just one of the advanced technologies that are being used to secure our defense and homeland security.  Closer to the earth but no less sophisticated are UGVs or unmanned ground vehicles that are analogous to driverless cars but it bit more advanced. UGVs deliver an ability to operate on most terrain to perform surveillance, inspection and certain types of maintenance especially in areas that might be dangerous to humans like nuclear installations.

Now that we’ve covered air and land, we should mention UUVs, or unmanned undersea vehicles.  We don’t hear as much about UUVs because they are well, less visible.  However, UUVs are already at work mapping the ocean floor and helping to bring sonar arrays to the seabed that are important in identifying and tracking submarines. Not to be confused with the underwater robotic camera systems that are used to explore shipwrecks, UUVs can be quite large and come in two basic categories, remotely operated and autonomous, the latter which operate automatically, without human input.

NJII’s Defense and Homeland Security iLab is leading the way in the application of Unmanned Aerial Systems in the areas of transportation, environment, infrastructure and disaster response. In addition, we are a partner in Robolliance, a forum for technology associates and industry experts in robotics, Unmanned Ground Vehicles, surveillance and security to advance the understanding and awareness of the autonomous robotics marketplace.