A runtime system for implementation of image processing operations is presented. It is designed for working in a flexible and distributed environment related to the software architecture of a newly developed UAV system. The software architecture can be characterized at a coarse scale as a layered system, with a deliberative layer at the top, a reactive layer in the middle, and a processing layer at the bottom. At a finer scale each of the three levels is decomposed into sets of modules which communicate using CORBA, allowing system development and deployment on the UAV to be made in a highly flexible way. Image processing takes place in a dedicated module located in the process layer, and is the main focus of the paper. This module has been designed as a runtime system for data flow graphs, allowing various processing operations to be created online and on demand by the higher levels of the system. The runtime system is implemented in Java, which allows development and deployment to be made on a wide range of hardware/software configurations. Optimizations for particular hardware platforms have been made using Java's native interface.