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.
Instrument design and fabrication
- 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
- 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
- Embedded systems
- Remote/autonomous operation
- TCP/IP instrumentation
- Linux, Windows, and DOS systems
- C++, Visual Basic, Labview, Matlab, and web-based languages
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.
- 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
Russ Light, Department Head
"We work with our customers to meet their needs with state-of-the-art engineering."
Deep-Sea Rescue of Valuable Research Instruments
The subsurface mooring component of the Northwest Enhanced Moored Observatory (NEMO) had to be rescued by a ROV piloted by APL-UW engineers. Extensive crevice corrosion from a longer-than-expected deployment was behind the acoustic release failures. More >>
Cabled Observatory Imaging Sonar System
COVIS is now plugged into the NEPTUNE Canada ocean observatory to image the plumes emanating from hydrothermal vent complexes. Plume geometry, discharge rates, and linkages between seafloor hydrothermal activity with tidal cycles, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions are being measured.
APL Ice Station
APL-UW's Ocean Engineering Department constructed an ice camp to support U.S. Navy and civilian personnel on the pack ice in the Beaufort Sea. The team provided all logisticscamp construction, infrastructure, and food servicesand conducted under-ice acoustic tracking and diving operations to support naval exercises during the station's month-long habitation.
Seaglider is enhanced with a new acoustic sensor an extremely low power and small recorder to make ocean ambient noise measurements and to receive very low frequency signals from ATOC sources. Efforts are under way to design and fabricate a second-generation glider that will travel faster and deeper, and carry a larger payload.
In the News
A visit to an Arctic ice station
The Atlantic, Lucas Jackson
31 May 2011
Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson was invited to the 2011 Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station, a temporary camp built out of plywood on Arctic sea ice. Jackson spent two days at the camp, watching its residents conduct tests on underwater and under-ice communications and sonar technologies.
Kitsap is warm compared with where they've been
The Kitsap Sun, Ed Friedrich
27 Apr 2011
The crew of USS Connecticut returned to Naval Base Kitsap on Wednesday after participating in Ice Exercise 2011 from March 15 to April 2. The sub crew worked with the Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory and the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory to test new equipment and train for under-ice operations.
U.S. submarines surface in tug of war over Arctic riches
MSNBC, Andrea Shalal-Esa
25 Mar 2011
APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY ICE STATION, Arctic Ocean The United States is staging high-profile submarine exercises in the Arctic Ocean as evidence mounts that global warming will lead to more mining, oil production, shipping and fishing in the world's last frontier.
Mathis, J.T., R.S. Pickart, R.H. Byrne, C.L. McNeil, G.W.K. Moore, L.W. Juranek, X. Liu, J. Ma, R.A. Easley, M.M. Elliot, J.N. Cross, S.C. Reisdorph, F. Bahr, J. Morison, T. Lichendorf, and R.A. Feely, "Storm-induced upwelling of high pCO2 waters onto the continental shelf of the western Arctic Ocean and implications for carbonate mineral saturation states," Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, doi:10.1029/2012GL051574, 2012.
11 Apr 2012, Link
Stewart, A., M. Cao, A. Nedic, D. Tomlin, and N. Leonard, "Towards humanrobot teams: Model-based analysis of human decision making in two-alternative choice tasks with social feedback," Proc. IEEE, 100, 751-775, doi:10.1109/JPROC.2011.2173815, 2012.
1 Mar 2012, Link
Rona, P., and R. Light, "Sonar images hydrothermal vents in seafloor observatory," EOS Trans. AGU, 92, 169, doi: 1029/2011EO200002, 2011.
17 May 2011, Link