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Brian Polagye

Adjunct Investigator

Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering





Research Interests

Tidal Energy Site and Device Characterization


Brian Polagye specializes in the characterization of tidal energy sites and devices through his work with the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. He works closely with Dr. Jim Thomson to develop instrumentation and methodologies to characterize the physical and biological environments at tidal energy sites. A combination of shipboard and stand-alone surveys monitor current velocity, turbulence, water quality, underwater noise, and marine mammal behavior. These activities are essential to the effective siting of tidal energy devices.


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Risk to marine animals from underwater noise generated by marine renewable energy devices

Polagye, B., and C. Bassett, "Risk to marine animals from underwater noise generated by marine renewable energy devices," in OES-Environmental 2020 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World, A.E. Copping and L.G. Hemery, eds., 67-85, doi:10.2172/1633082 (Ocean Energy Systems, 2020).

30 Sep 2020

Future vision for autonomous ocean observations

Whitt, C., and 24 others including B. Polagye and D. Manalang, "Future vision for autonomous ocean observations," Front. Mar. Sci., 7, 697, doi:10.3389/fmars.2020.00697, 2020.

More Info

8 Sep 2020

Autonomous platforms already make observations over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales, measuring salinity, temperature, nitrate, pressure, oxygen, biomass, and many other parameters. However, the observations are not comprehensive. Future autonomous systems need to be more affordable, more modular, more capable and easier to operate. Creative new types of platforms and new compact, low power, calibrated and stable sensors are under development to expand autonomous observations. Communications and recharging need bandwidth and power which can be supplied by standardized docking stations. In situ power generation will also extend endurance for many types of autonomous platforms, particularly autonomous surface vehicles. Standardized communications will improve ease of use, interoperability, and enable coordinated behaviors. Improved autonomy and communications will enable adaptive networks of autonomous platforms. Improvements in autonomy will have three aspects: hardware, control, and operations. As sensors and platforms have more onboard processing capability and energy capacity, more measurements become possible. Control systems and software will have the capability to address more complex states and sophisticated reactions to sensor inputs, which allows the platform to handle a wider variety of circumstances without direct operator control. Operational autonomy is increased by reducing operating costs. To maximize the potential of autonomous observations, new standards and best practices are needed. In some applications, focus on common platforms and volume purchases could lead to significant cost reductions. Cost reductions could enable order-of-magnitude increases in platform operations and increase sampling resolution for a given level of investment. Energy harvesting technologies should be integral to the system design, for sensors, platforms, vehicles, and docking stations. Connections are needed between the marine energy and ocean observing communities to coordinate among funding sources, researchers, and end users. Regional teams should work with global organizations such as IOC/GOOS in governance development. International networks such as emerging glider operations (EGO) should also provide a forum for addressing governance. Networks of multiple vehicles can improve operational efficiencies and transform operational patterns. There is a need to develop operational architectures at regional and global scales to provide a backbone for active networking of autonomous platforms.

Adaptable Monitoring Package development and deployment: Lessons learned for integrated instrumentation at marine energy sites

Polagye, B., J. Joslin, P. Murphy, E. Cotter, M. Scott, P. Gibbs, C. Bassett, and A. Stewart, "Adaptable Monitoring Package development and deployment: Lessons learned for integrated instrumentation at marine energy sites," J. Mar. Sci. Eng., 8, 553, doi:10.3390/jmse8080553, 2020.

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24 Jul 2020

Integrated instrumentation packages are an attractive option for environmental and ecological monitoring at marine energy sites, as they can support a range of sensors in a form factor compact enough for the operational constraints posed by energetic waves and currents. Here we present details of the architecture and performance for one such system — the Adaptable Monitoring Package — which supports active acoustic, passive acoustic, and optical sensing to quantify the physical environment and animal presence at marine energy sites. we describe cabled and autonomous deployments and contrast the relatively limited system capabilities in an autonomous operating mode with more expansive capabilities, including real-time data processing, afforded by shore power or in situ power harvesting from waves. Across these deployments, we describe sensor performance, outcomes for biological target classification algorithms using data from multibeam sonars and optical cameras, and the effectiveness of measures to limit biofouling and corrosion. On the basis of these experiences, we discuss the demonstrated requirements for integrated instrumentation, possible operational concepts for monitoring the environmental and ecological effects of marine energy converters using such systems, and the engineering trade-offs inherent in their development. Overall, we find that integrated instrumentation can provide powerful capabilities for observing rare events, managing the volume of data collected, and mitigating potential bias to marine animal behavior. These capabilities may be as relevant to the broader oceanographic community as they are to the emerging marine energy sector.

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In The News

UW engineers test tidal energy turbines on Lake Washington

KING5 News, Laura Fattaruso

A team of engineers are testing turbines in Lake Washington that are designed to turn tides into usable energy.

17 Aug 2019

Eyes Underwater Watching Aquatic Wildlife

Environmental Monitor, Karla Lant

Recent work from researchers at the University of Washington offers a promising new way to harvest energy from waves at sea and use that energy to power an Adaptable Monitoring Package.

9 Jul 2019

Converting ocean waves into electricity poses challenges—and promise

Columns Magazine, Jon Marmor

In the glorious Pacific Ocean waters off the windward coast of O’ahu, waves crash along the Kailua coast. But it isn’t just surfers who salivate over those ocean jewels. Scientists believe the motion of the ocean could bring the promise of something even more important: clean energy.

3 Jun 2019

More News Items


An Adaptable Monitoring Package for Marine Environmental Monitoring

Record of Invention Number: 47352

Brian Polagye, James Joslin, Ben Rush, Andy Stewart


21 May 2015

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