Applied Physics Lab

Photo of MsLars and Cyclops under tow

Cyclops 1 and Launch and Recovery Platform under tow.


The University of Washington Applied Physics Lab (APL-UW) began working with OceanGate to investigate the use of imaging sonars for tracking submarines. Typically, APL might work with a US Navy system, but the cost and availability makes that nearly impossible. The flexibility and availability provided by OceanGate has been an important element in the partnership. Development of autonomy for underwater vehicles has created other areas of collaboration. OceanGate is providing APL with a test platform for the development of sensors and algorithms for underwater vehicles' "sense and avoid" systems. The cost of integrating sensors into a manned vehicle is much less expensive given the ability for an algorithm developer to sit in a submarine and make changes on-the-fly while witnessing what's really going on outside.


The Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington (APL - UW) was founded in 1943 by the U.S. Navy to address World War II (WWII) to provide a research program to develop the technologies needed to overtake a technically sophisticated and well-prepared enemy. The Laboratory began developing unmanned underwater research vehicles in the late '50s. Development of a special submarine sonar led to advances in acoustic imaging, which resulted in an APL-UW spinoff company, BlueView Technology, which was acquired by Teledyne Industries in 2012. Today the APL encourages scientists and engineers pursue leadership roles in acoustic and remote sensing, ocean physics and engineering, medical and industrial ultrasound, polar science and logistics, environmental and information systems, and electronic and photonic systems.


APL Research programs aimed at understanding ocean circulation, mixing, and variability have resulted in a wide variety of unique ship and aircraft-launched instruments to measure ocean currents, temperature, salinity, turbulence, diffusion rates, and the effects of ocean variability on acoustic signals. The Navy has made use of the Laboratory's knowledge of the ocean environment, coupled with its understanding of Navy operational requirements, to develop Fleet tactics, strategies, and systems.


APL-UW research is conducted in four campus buildings: the original Henderson Hall, the (Old) Oceanography Building, the Portage Bay Building, and the Benjamin Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building. Executive and business functions are located at 909 Boat Street. APL's research vessels, R/V Clifford and R/V Thomas G. Thompson, are moored on Lake Union.

The Collaboratory

OceanGate is part of the APL Collaboratory, housed at 909 Boat St., that fosters research and engineering collaborations between academia and industry. By bringing together a critical mass of expertise and resources, the Collaboratory supports a synergetic ecosystem for marine technology research and development. APL-UW scientists and engineers are partnering with many companies to advance R+D programs and spur economic growth in Washington State and across the nation.

For more information visit UW Applied Physics Lab