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Russ Light

Head, OE Department & Senior Principal Engineer





Research Interests

Designing, Managing, and Fielding Oceanographic and Navy Systems


Russ Light has performed major roles in the electrical, software, and systems design of numerous ocean-going systems for both the scientific and Navy communities. He came to APL-UW in 1982 and spent the next 5 years working on electronic systems used for torpedo testing targets. This work was followed by a number of projects in the ocean instrumentation field including solid-state data recorders, underwater tracking ranges, and a mine training device for Navy EOD divers.

During the 1990s Mr. Light was the lead electrical and systems engineer for several autonomous undersea vehicles that were used for scientific missions under the arctic ice pack. He was the lead electrical engineer on the AUV ocean glider Seaglider until 2003. In the early 2000s he was the project manager and lead electrical engineer for a number of benthic sonar systems that were used to study acoustic propagation in ocean sediments.

In January 2001 he became department chair of the Ocean Engineering Department. His most recent achievements were the development of a system to measure acoustic sound speed in ocean sediments to a depth of 3 m (SAMS), co-PI for COVIS (Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar) — a system connected to the Neptune Canada cabled ocean observatory that acoustically measures the plume extent and flow rates of hydrothermal vent complexes, and is the program manager for the Navy ICEX arctic camps, overseeing the modernization of acoustic tracking range systems and ancillary support equipment. His contributions as department chair of the Ocean Engineering Department include the modernization of the Acoustic Test Facility, Pressure Test Facility, and Acoustic Tank Facility. He has also implemented numerous engineering documentation standards which have resulted in complete and homogeneous drawing and written documents for all OED projects.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Engineering


B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, 1981


2000-present and while at APL-UW

The path to COVIS: A review of acoustic imaging of hydrothermal flow regimes

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.

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1 Nov 2015

Acoustic imaging of hydrothermal flow regimes started with the incidental recognition of a plume on a routine sonar scan for obstacles in the path of the human-occupied submersible ALVIN. Developments in sonar engineering, acoustic data processing and scientific visualization have been combined to develop technology which can effectively capture the behavior of focused and diffuse hydrothermal discharge. This paper traces the development of these acoustic imaging techniques for hydrothermal flow regimes from their conception through to the development of the Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar (COVIS). COVIS has monitored such flow eight times a day for several years. Successful acoustic techniques for estimating plume entrainment, bending, vertical rise, volume flux, and heat flux are presented as is the state-of-the-art in diffuse flow detection.

Sonar images hydrothermal vents in seafloor observatory

Rona, P., and R. Light, "Sonar images hydrothermal vents in seafloor observatory," EOS Trans. AGU, 92, 169, doi: 1029/2011EO200002, 2011.

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17 May 2011

Hydrothermal plumes venting from black smokers and diffuse flow discharging from the surrounding area of the seafloor are important as agents of transfer of heat, chemicals, and biological material from the crust into the ocean in quantitatively significant amounts. An unprecedented time series of three-dimensional (3-D) volume images of plumes rising tens of meters from black smoker vents and of concurrent 2-D maps of diffuse flow discharging from surrounding areas of the seafloor illuminates the turbulent behavior of hydrothermal fluid transfer into the ocean.

Cabled observatory vent imaging sonar

Light, R., V. Miller, D.R. Jackson, P.A. Rona, and K.G. Bemis, "Cabled observatory vent imaging sonar," J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 129, 2373, doi: 10.1121/1.3587685, 2011.

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1 Apr 2011

A cabled observatory vent imaging sonar (COVIS) has been developed to provide plume and Doppler imaging of hydrothermal vents and surrounding diffuse flow. The system was designed to be compatible with the power and data interface standards of the Neptune Canada cabled observatory. COVIS is a 4 m tall, titanium tripod employing a Reson 7125 multibeam sonar. The sonar transducers are positioned by a motor-driven three degree of freedom rotation system (pitch, roll, and yaw). A 400 kHz, 1 x 128 deg fan-beam projector is used with a receiver array that forms 256 beams having horizontal width 0.5 deg and covering a 128 deg azimuthal sector. Volumetric imaging of plumes is generated as the transducer array is scanned in 1 deg pitch steps. Doppler measurements of flow velocity over a 3-D grid are also derived. A 200 kHz, 28 x 128 deg broad beam projector is used to image the diffuse areas near the base of the hydrothermal vent edifices. Software allows for the creation of complex, arbitrary, autonomously executed experiments that control all aspects of the sonar and rotation system. COVIS was successfully deployed in September 2010. The design of COVIS provides insights relevant to future cabled acoustic systems.

More Publications

Autonomous and ship-cabled, bottom mounted sonar systems%u2014Development, uses and issues associated with transitioning to ocean observatories

Williams, K.L., R.D. Light, and V.W. Miller, "Autonomous and ship-cabled, bottom mounted sonar systems%u2014Development, uses and issues associated with transitioning to ocean observatories," J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 117, 2471, 2005.

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1 Apr 2005

Three bottom mounted sonar systems will be described that were built over a span of fifteen years. The complexity of deployment and sophistication of the tasks performed increased with each system. The first system is an autonomous tower with rotating sonar designed to examine backscattering from an area within 50 m radius of the tower. The second is a ship-cabled system that includes a diver movable tower and separate buried array for examining both backscattering and acoustic penetration into sediments. The last is a ship-cabled rail/tower system designed to carry out forward scattering and synthetic aperture backscattering measurements. All three systems are designed to remain deployed for time periods up to a couple of months. After describing the systems, their deployment and some example results, recent efforts will be described that are aimed at transitioning these types of systems to cabled ocean observatories. The overall goal of the talk is to indicate both the level of complexity that can be envisioned for bottom mounted systems as well as the new issues that must be addressed in moving to cabled ocean observatories.

Seasonal evolution of the albedo of multiyear arctic sea ice

Perovich, D.K., T.C. Grenfell, B. Light, and P.V. Hobbs, "Seasonal evolution of the albedo of multiyear arctic sea ice," J. Geophys. Res., 107, doi:10.1029/2000JC000438, 2002.

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11 Oct 2002

As part of ice albedo feedback studies during the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) field experiment, we measured spectral and wavelength-integrated albedo on multiyear sea ice. Measurements were made every 2.5 m along a 200-m survey line from April through October. Initially, this line was completely snow covered, but as the melt season progressed, it became a mixture of bare ice and melt ponds. Observed changes in albedo were a combination of a gradual evolution due to seasonal transitions and abrupt shifts resulting from synoptic weather events. There were five distinct phases in the evolution of albedo: dry snow, melting snow, pond formation, pond evolution, and fall freeze-up. In April the surface albedo was high (0.8–0.9) and spatially uniform. By the end of July the average albedo along the line was 0.4, and there was significant spatial variability, with values ranging from 0.1 for deep, dark ponds to 0.65 for bare, white ice. There was good agreement between surface-based albedos and measurements made from the University of Washington's Convair-580 research aircraft. A comparison between net solar irradiance computed using observed albedos and a simplified model of seasonal evolution shows good agreement as long as the timing of the transitions is accurately determined.

Seaglider: a long-range autonomous underwater vehicle for oceanographic research

Eriksen, C.C., T.J. Osse, R.D. Light, T. Wen, T.W. Lehman, P.L. Sabin, J.W. Ballard, and A.M. Chiodi, "Seaglider: a long-range autonomous underwater vehicle for oceanographic research," IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., 26, 424 - 436, doi:10.1109/48.972073, 2001.

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1 Oct 2001

Seagliders are small, reusable autonomous underwater vehicles designed to glide from the ocean surface to a programmed depth and back while measuring temperature, salinity, depth-averaged current, and other quantities along a sawtooth trajectory through the water. Their low hydrodynamic drag and wide pitch control range allow glide slopes in the range 0.2 to 3. They are designed for missions in a range of several thousand kilometers and durations of many months. Seagliders are commanded remotely and report their measurements in near real time via wireless telemetry. The development and operation of Seagliders and the results of field trials in Puget Sound are reported.

Seaglider Observations During Summer 2000

Eriksen, C.C., R.D. Light, T.W. Lehman, T. Wen, M.J. Perry, A.M. Chiodi, P.L. Sabin, M.L. Welch, and N.M. Bogue, "Seaglider Observations During Summer 2000"

1 Jan 2000

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center