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?

"What Sub Dawg," UW's Human Powered Submarine

The UW human powered submarine team—a club in UW's Department of Mechanical Engineering—is preparing to compete in the International Submarine Races in summer 2016.

For 2015-2016, OE Principal Engineer Andy Stewart is serving as the team's faculty advisor, so many of the design and build activites have returned to APL-UW facilities. Stewart and team captain Bentley Altizer, a senior ME student, note the benefits for team members to work side-by-side with APL-UW professionals solving ocean engineering probelms as part of their daily work. "The biggest thing I've learned is to keep it simple," says Altizer.  More >>
(Also more at:

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

BluHaptics wins $747,000 grant to create 3-D piloting system for underwater robots


18 Apr 2016

BluHaptics has received a $747,197 NSF phase II Small Business Innovative Research grant to work on a virtual-reality robotic control system that could transform underwater operations. Seattle-based BluHaptics is a commercial venture that was spun out from UW’s Department of Electrical Engineering and the Applied Physics Laboratory in 2013. Its tools of the trade include haptic devices that provide force-feedback control of teleoperated robots, and immersive 3-D interfaces that put a remote operator into a virtual-reality environment.

With new tech, scientists probe what lies beneath the Sound

The Herald (Everett),

17 Jan 2016

The Adaptable Monitoring Package (AMP) undergoes tests near Sequin, WA. Instrumented with two kinds of sonar, a current profiler, three visual cameras, and four hydrophones, it can bes used for basic research on the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem or other projects requiring undersea monitoring for long periods of time.

Recent Papers

Gilman, P., B. Maurer, L. Feinberg, A. Duerr, J. Golladay, J. Stromberg, I. Johnson, D. Boren, A. Moore, L. Peterson, W. Musial, and P. Beiter, "National Offshore Wind Strategy; Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States," Department of Energy and Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, September 2016, 71 pp.

1 Sep 2016, Link

Alford, M.H., T. McGinnis, and B.M. Howe, "An inductive charging and real-time communications system for profiling moorings," J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol., 32, 2243-2252, doi:10.1175/JTECH-D-15-0103.1, 2015.

1 Dec 2015, Link

Bemis, K.G., D. Silver, G. Xu, R. Light, D. Jackson, C. Jones, S. Ozer, and L. Liu, "The path to COVIS: A review of acoustic imaging of hydrothermal flow regimes," Deep Sea Res. II, 121, 159-176, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.06.002, 2015.

1 Nov 2015, Link