Engineering Excellence at Sea

For half a century we have demonstrated science and technology expertise and gained a national reputation. The Ocean Engineering Department serves as a resource to scientists at APL-UW, the University of Washington, other research organizations, and the U.S. Navy. We provide engineering know-how to support ambitious basic and applied research programs.

Mechanical, electrical, software, and field engineers design, fabricate, and deploy systems in the deep and coastal ocean environments, and under polar ice.

At-sea engineering

Research diving

Instrument design and fabrication


Mechanical Design

  • Scientific and naval instrumentation
  • Autonomous undersea vehicles
  • Moorings, underwater structures and towers
  • Harsh environment packaging (polar, shipboard, and airborne systems)
  • Finite element analysis
  • Acoustic transducers
  • Corrosion and abrasion analysis and control

Electrical Design

  • Low-power, battery operated, embedded systems
  • High-speed data acquisition systems and signal processing
  • Custom analog and digital board design, PCB layout
  • Complex system design, electro-mechanical systems
  • Custom and OEM sensor integration

Software Design

  • Embedded systems
  • Remote/autonomous operation
  • TCP/IP instrumentation
  • Linux, Windows, and DOS systems
  • C++, Visual Basic, Labview, Matlab, and web-based languages

Field Operations

  • Deployment, operation, and recovery of equipment at sea and in the Arctic
  • Logistics and operations support in the Arctic, at sea, and remote locations
  • Diving — open water and under-ice
To support shallow water and under-ice field experiments, the Department has five scientific divers certified by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences and by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for nitrox mixed gas diving.

Russ Light, Department Head
"We work with our customers to meet their needs with state-of-the-art engineering."

What's New?

Vision Takes Form

APL-UW engineering expertise is a big part of making the vision of "plugging into" the deep ocean a reality. The Regional Scale Nodes component of the National Science Foundation Ocean Observatories Initiative is a power and communications network stretching hundreds of miles offshore the Pacific Northwest. Installation of many components of the regional cabled observatory was successful during the VISIONS'13 cruise.  More >>

Target and Reverberation Experiment 2013   More >>

Local Educators on Shelf Science Cruise

On Earth Day the UW-operated R/V Thompson began an expedition for research and education off the Washington coast. Local teachers aboard learned about current ocean research topics and how to bring real time ocean data to their classrooms.  More >>

Basic and Applied Research Push Seaglider's Capabilities

Seaglider offers depth, versatility, and persistence at an operating cost far less than an ocean research vessel. People should like them because they're really cool, but they do like them because they're comparatively inexpensive. In May 2013, UW's Center for Commercialization licensed the manufacture of Seagliders to Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc., granting them sole rights to produce, market, and continue the development of Seaglider technology.  More >>

In the News

Underwater robotics startup Bluhabptics raises cash for hi-tech subsea devices


23 Jun 2015

A new Seattle-based startup spun out of the University of Washington wants to improve the efficiency of subsea operations. Bluhaptics lets customers control complex robotics systems remotely underwater with software that fuses 2D and 3D data into a single display.

"Millennium Falcon" launches "X-Wing" into marine world

Marine Technology News,

5 May 2015

The long-term effect of renewable energy installations on marine animals is to be investigated by researchers at Washington University. APL-UW Ocean Engineers Andy Stewart, Ben Rush, Paul Gibbs, Trina Litchendorf, Tim McGinnis, and Chris Siani are involved in this R&D project.

UW and local company unveil new five-person submarine

UW News and Information,

20 Mar 2015

The University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory and Everett-based company OceanGate this month unveiled the first model of its joint project to build a new type of submarine for human research and exploration in the deep sea.

Recent Papers

Alford, M.H., T. McGinnis, and B.M. Howe, "An inductive charging and real-time communications system for profiling moorings," J. Atmos. Ocean. Techno., EOR, doi:10.1175/JTECH-D-15-0103.1, 2015.

15 Oct 2015, Link

Polagye, B., J. Joslin, A. Stewart, and A. Copping, "Integrated instrumentation for marine energy monitoring," Proc., 2nd International Conference on Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewable Energy Technologies (EIMR 2014), 28 April - 2 May, Stornaway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland (2014).

28 Apr 2014, Link

Rush, B., J. Joslin, A. Stewart, and B. Polagye, "Development of an adaptable monitoring package for marine renewable energy projects. Part I: Conceptual design and operation," Proc., 2nd Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS 2014), 15-18 April, Seattle, WA (2014).

15 Apr 2014, Link