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Staff Systems Engineer

Hardware Engineering | Alameda, CA | Full Time

Job Description

About Us

At Saildrone, we sustainably explore, map, and monitor the oceans to understand, preserve, and protect our world. Saildrone provides real-time access to critical data from any ocean on earth, 24/7/365, and uses proprietary software applications to transform that data into actionable insights and intelligence. Saildrone’s fleet of uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), powered by renewable wind and solar power, have a minimal carbon footprint and operate 24/7/365, without the need for a crewed support vehicle. We work with governments, civil agencies, foundations, universities, and private companies around the globe to drive better information about our oceans and seas—from sailing drones into the eye of a Category 4 hurricane to obtain new scientific storm data, mapping the ocean floor, collecting new CO2 data in hard-to-reach areas, counting biomass to establish fishing quotas, or detecting and stopping illegal fishing and drug trafficking. As a result of our work, we have been included on Fast Company’s annual list of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2022” and earned the 2022 Ocean Awards’ Innovation Award, presented by the Blue Marine Foundation. Saildrone’s hurricane mission was included as one of the New York Times "Top 21 Things that happened (for the first time) in 2021", and Popular Science's "100 Greatest Innovations of 2021".

We are based in Alameda, CA, with offices in Washington DC, St. Petersburg, FL, and Fall River, MA, and operate our missions worldwide. We are backed by top-tier investors in the frontier-tech and sustainability sectors, including Social Capital, Capricorn, Lux Capital, BOND Capital, and Emerson Collective.

This is an exciting opportunity with a fast-growing team at the cutting-edge intersection of big data services and autonomous hardware. You will be an integral part of a high-performing multi-disciplinary delivering high impact for humanity and future generations.


The Role

We are seeking an experienced systems engineer to drive the specification, integration, and test of new marine drones. You will be responsible for making system design proposals based on models that you develop and run. Proposals will take desires from business development personnel, constraints from engineering and finance, and help guide decisions to maximize endurance and capabilities, and to minimize complexity. As proposals are accepted and developed, you will become responsible for system diagramming and harnessing. As prototypes get built you will be responsible for specifying and coordinating performance testing against mission requirements.

What you’ll do

  • Survey internally developed and off-the-shelf electrical and electromechanical components and subsystems to put together block diagrams for upcoming autonomous boats. This will include trade studies for different approaches to a wide array of problems, e.g., computing architectures, camera systems, acoustic arrays, new ocean science sensors, etc.
  • Build, validate, and operate software models of proposed vehicle systems - e.g., for energy management, state transitions, sequencing compatible/incompatible sensors or actuators.
  • Confirm with internal stakeholders the suitability-for-purpose of the proposed system designs and iterate rapidly to close any gaps.
  • Own the single-source-of-truth system diagram from which all engineers understand topology and connectivity of various configurations of vessels. This will involve complete ownership of the system diagram, as well as managing contributors to detailed harness design drawings and jumping in and detailing those harness designs as resource constraints demand.
  • Prepare test plans to verify the functionality of completed systems; manage others and also participate in the execution of those tests.

Required Skills

  • 6 + years of relevant experience 
  • Ability to read and understand electrical, mechanical, and material technical documentation and marketing materials.
  • Strong sense of trade-offs and ability to clearly communicate costs and benefits to specific architectures and decisions in order to guide the design process.
  • Ability to read and write software primarily in Python and to ingest or egress data from that software, as well as to visualize and communicate results.
  • Debugging skills; ability to bisect problems and propose and execute tests to narrow down to root cause.
  • Basic familiarity of what kinds of test equipment are available to verify system performance; strong ability to research what might be available to add additional coverage.
  • Communication and leadership skills to manage technicians, validation engineers and associated vendors, and other systems engineers.
  • B.S. in a Hard Science 

Bonus Skills

  • Familiarity with production processes and assembly to make educated recommendations for easy to understand, easy to build, and easy to maintain vehicles.
  • Good graphic design sense and practiced agility with diagramming software.
  • Familiarity with mechanical CAD and PLM systems.
  • Strong understanding of electrical and system level test equipment (e.g., VNA, spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, DAQ systems, etc) to be able to direct test engineers in test design, setup, and execution.


Location: This position is in Alameda, CA. Only candidates with proper permits to work in the United States can be considered.  Our waterfront office offers beautiful views of San Francisco Bay in always sunny Alameda. Even our walls have good karma, our offices mix software development with a hardware production line in the former airplane hangar used to film 'The Matrix'.


  • Medical, dental and vision plans for you and your dependents.

  • Short and relaxing ferry ride from the Ferry Building for SF residents

  • Enhanced Parental Leave Programs
  • Competitive benefits including excellent medical, life insurance, 401k plan


Catch up on the latest news about us:

An Unprecedented View Inside a Hurricane – EOS (May 6, 2022)

Meet the sailing robots trying to solve climate change – The Hill (Mar. 18, 2022)

They Sailed Into a Hurricane, Now these Unmanned Saildrones are Seeking Data on Our Carbon Uptake – CNN (Dec. 9, 2021)

Saildrone Catches a $100M C Breeze to Build More Robo-boats – TechCrunch (Oct. 18, 2021)

With A Sight, Sound And Radar Picture, Saildrone Could Build An AI Database Of Everything In The Ocean – Forbes (Aug. 16, 2021)

Changing Arctic Environment Could Also Change Technologies Needed to Protect It, Experts Say – SeaPower Magazine (Aug. 2, 2021)

Autonomous Research Vehicle Completes Ocean Crossing from San Francisco to Hawaii – Hydro International (July 13, 2021)

Saildrone Featured Videos Playlist


We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status.


In accordance with Saildrone’s mandatory employee COVID-19 vaccination policy, please be advised that all employees are required to be vaccinated and boosted to safeguard the health of our employees and their families, our customers and visitors and the community at large.


Any unsolicited resumes/candidate profiles submitted through our website or to personal email accounts of employees of Saildrone are considered property of Saildrone and are not subject to payment of agency fees.