Zak Harris

Zak Harris
PhD Student
70 Krieger Hall
zharris7 [at] jhu [dot] edu


My current research focuses on navigation of small, low-cost unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Specifically, I am utilizing cooperative navigation, a combined acoustic communication and navigation technique developed in the late 2000s, for localization of UUVs not equipped with a Doppler velocity log (DVL). Our approach is to utilize a model of the second-order nonlinear dynamics of the submerged vehicle, along with IMU and depth observations, in a delayed-state extended Kalman Filter (EKF) to estimate the 12-DOF position of the submerged vehicle.

Please see my recent publications for more information.


2011 B.S. Webb Institute, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering


Harris, Z. J. & Whitcomb, L. L. (2016), Preliminary study of cooperative navigation of underwater vehicles without a DVL utilizing range and range-rate observations , in ‘IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2016’.


ASEE National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship (2014-2017)
Bowles Family Fellowship JHU Mechanical Eng. Dept (2013)
American Bureau of Shipping award for best Webb senior thesis in any technical field (2011)
William H. Webb Scholarship (2007-2011) — full tuition scholarship
Marine Technology Society ROV Scholarship Runner-Up (2010)
American Society of Naval Architects Scholarship Winner (2010)
Marine Technology Society ROV Scholarship 1st Prize Winner (2007)

Past Work

I worked for SAIC (now Leidos) from 2011 to 2013 as a systems engineer. I was the lead engineer on the Vessel Management System and Power Management System for a 40m unmanned surface vehicle (USV) for the DARPA Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) project. The completed vessel is now christened “Sea Hunter.” I also assisted a principal systems engineer, Dr. Bryan Coles, in the development of a novel simulation of photon propagation underwater using a Monte Carlo approach in support of an ultra-high bandwidth, free-space, subsea optical communications program. The simulation yielded interesting results on the temporal and spatial distribution of photons, especially for photons that encountered multiple forward scatter (MFS) events. We did a rudimentary experimental evaluation of the simulation, but a full evaluation is yet to be completed.