What We Do

Developing and building state-of-the-art solutions for challenging problems faced by the U.S. Navy has been our core expertise for several decades.
Modern submarines host thousands of sensors that are used for tactical purposes and also to collect data that are subjected to later analysis such as mission reconstruction.

APL-UW is the implementing organization for the Pacific Northwest component of the NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative: Regional Scale Nodes. This underwater cabled observatory will be installed off the Washington and Oregon coasts to span the Juan de Fuca plate. We are engineering leads for this high bandwidth, high power distribution system, and will also deliver the scientific instrument packages that connect to it.  More >>


Custom Recording Systems

We develop custom recording systems and also the interfaces between them and ship's sensors for every U.S. Navy submarine. We also develop the highly specialized signal processing tools used to analyze the collected data.

High-Definition Sonars

We have developed a new class of high-definition sonars used to inspect and identify objects in turbid water where optical systems fail and continue to explore applications for them. They can identify underwater intruders as part of harbor security, and can be deployed on remotely operated submersibles where they can scan for objects of interest. The sonars are even being used to count migrating salmon by fisheries researchers.

DIDSON high-definition sonar images:  fish (L) and stingrays (R)


Photonics is the use of light to acquire, transfer and store data of all types. Systems operating with light are expected to replace many electronic devices in the future. Researchers are developing fiber optic modulators and switches based on organic electro-optic polymer materials. We are also working on spectroscopic identification of materials using terahertz radiation.

Gary Harkins, EPS Department Director

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 >>

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

60 Minutes: The Arctic Frontier

CBS News,

2 Oct 2016

Lesley Stahl goes to the top of the world where the next battle over oil and mineral resources is shaping up as the region becomes more accessible due to climate change. She visits the ICEX 2016 camp built for scientific and military exercises by APL-UW engineers.

Students, researchers at sea working on recently erupted deep-sea volcano

UW News and Information,

15 Jul 2015

When an underwater volcano erupted in April off the Oregon coast, researchers knew within minutes that something spectacular was happening more than 300 miles offshore. Precision hardware installed by the University of Washington last summer let scientists see its effects almost instantly from shore.

Recent Papers

McRae, E., "Continuous real time scanning of the upper ocean water column," Proc., MTS/IEEE OCEANS Conference, 19-23 September, Monterey, CA, doi:10.1109/OCEANS.2016.7761359 (IEEE, 2016).

1 Dec 2016, Link

Wilcock, W.S.D., D.A. Schmidt, J.E. Vidale, M.J. Harrington, P. Bodin, G.S. Cram, J.R. Delaney, F.I. Gonzalez, D.S. Kelley, R.J. Leveque, D.A. Manalang, C. McGuire, E.C. Roland, M.W. Stoermer, J.W. Tilley, and C. Vogl, "Designing an offshore geophysical network in the Pacific Northwest for earthquake and tsunami early warning and hazard research," Proc., MTS/IEEE OCEANS Conference, 19-23 September, Monterey, CA, doi:10.1109/OCEANS.2016.7761291 (IEEE, 2016).

1 Dec 2016, Link

Colosimo, P., A. Chen, J. Devkota, H. Srikanth, and M.-H. Phan, "Sensing RF and microwave energy with fiber Bragg grating heating via soft ferromagnetic glass-coated microwires," Sensor Actuat. A-Phys., 210, 25-31, doi:10.1016/j.sna.2014.01.038, 2014.

1 Apr 2014, Link