The Pennsylvania State University’s Applied Research Laboratory (ARL)

Over 1,000 academics, defence experts, scientists, engineers and technicians are deployed at this facility, tasked with keeping US forces at the forefront of military and weapons technology. From time to time, military technologies developed at the lab are made available for wider commercial use, under the articles of the University’s charter.

WatchStander incorporates and benefits from such technology. ARL remains the primary source of software and product development for WatchStander’s radar interpretation, threat identification and countermeasure response capabilities.

WatchStander President David Rigsby, who has a lifetime of experience in the perimeter surveillance and defence sector, has a long-standing association with ARL. He was among the first to recognise the value of naval perimeter security technology to maritime anti-piracy defence.

As a university centre of excellence in naval science and technologies, with pre-eminence in undersea missions and related areas, ARL provides solutions to problems in national security, economic competitiveness, and quality of life. In fulfilment of this mission, ARL:

  • Performs basic and applied research, exploratory development, advanced development, and manufacturing technology in support of the U.S. Navy technology base
  • Champions the transfer of advanced technologies and manufacturing processes, in partnership with industry and U.S. Navy research development centers, to acquisition programs and fleet operations, as well as to other government agencies and the private sector
  • Contributes to the educational objectives, research goals, and public service outreach of the Pennsylvania State University

ARL is a U.S. Navy University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) as designated by DoD. It maintains a long-term strategic relationship with the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Characteristics of this relationship include:

  • Responsive to evolving needs
  • Comprehensive knowledge of needs and problems
  • Access to information and proprietary data
  • Corporate knowledge and technical memory
  • Objectivity and independence from commercial interests
  • Quick response capability
  • Current operational experience
  • Freedom from real and perceived conflicts of interest


The U.S. Navy established the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State in 1945:

  • Eric Walker, first Director (1945-51) and Penn State President (1956-70)
  • Water Tunnel completed in 1949 as the Navy’s principal hydrodynamic facility
  • Intercollegiate Graduate Degree Program in Acoustics established in 1965
  • In 1996, the Navy reaffirmed its strategic relationship and commitment by designating ARL as a University Affiliated Research Centre (UARC);
  • ARL is a DoD Manufacturing Technology (MANTECH) Program affiliate;
  • ARL faculty and staff provide technical leadership in the Navy for our areas of expertise. Additionally, we educate the next generation of scientists and engineers for the Naval workforce;
  • ARL is the largest research unit within Penn State with more than 1,000 faculty and staff.