What is Monterey DART?

Drone, automation and robotics technology (DART) have changed our approach to workplace safety, conservation, and production. From increasing productivity to protecting the environment, they are tools to help solve complex problems. This technology also provides inspiration for young minds considering entering Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math (STEAM) pathways.

DART-related innovations are driving change across a wide range of domains including agriculture, national defense, mobility, infrastructure, natural resources, marine, climate and many others. The Monterey Bay region is ideally positioned to become a hotbed of R&D, innovation and deployment of these tools.

We founded DART to mobilize innovation, education, and economic development in the Monterey Bay Region. By connecting academic, industry and government partners, we aim to inspire young minds, increase employment and boost regional vitality.

Our Mission

Our mission is to establish and facilitate a world-class drone, automation/autonomy, robotics technology development, testing, and manufacturing cluster in the Monterey Bay Region by supporting good fit, climate-smart, DART businesses for jobs growth and community vitality.

DART works towards this mission with four program focus areas:

  • Innovative workforce development programs
  • Critical infrastructure & facilities access
  • Innovation, entrepreneurship & business development
  • Education & policy advocacy

Our Vision

DART’s Vision is to connect and coordinate industry, government, academic, and DART practitioners to pursue opportunities for regional advancement, innovation, and economic development.

DART performs five main functions in each above focus area:

  • Connect. Convene stakeholders and strengthen the DART community to coordinate action, advance projects, and establish productive cross-sector partnerships;
  • Manage. Manage new workforce and infrastructure project development plans and programs;
  • Fund. Identify, pursue, and secure public and private funding to support research and development, infrastructure improvement, and
  •  venture creation/growth;
  • Educate. Host industry and educational forums. Contribute to regional workforce solutions, curriculum development and education; and
  • Advocate. Advocate for safe and appropriate market, facilities and airspace access.

Why Monterey Bay?

Monterey Bay is an ideal location for the cultivation and growth of DART industries. With Silicon Valley over the hill and Salinas’ “Salad Bowl” around the corner, the area offers unparalleled development opportunities for cleantech industries. Surrounded by institutes of higher education, Monterey Bay is a prime place for innovation and research. The region’s skilled and educated workforce offers endless opportunities for regional economic development.

DART is currently focusing on at least three regional locations. We are also exploring connections with expanding national innovation networks. Current local and regional innovation sites include:

  • Former Fort Ord including the Marina Airport, UCMBEST properties, and CSU Monterey Bay.
  • Airspace Integration at the Monterey Bay Academy
  • NPS Affiliated Facilities: SLAMR, JIFX and Central Coast Tech Bridge

Our History

The DART initiative began with a casual conversation.

Economic Development Manager at the Fort Ord Reuse Authority Josh Metz and entrepreneur Chris Bley founded DART in 2018. The two discovered their shared passion for drones aviation  and robotics during a chance meeting in their neighborhood.

The Federal Air Administration (FAA) called for proposals to establish drone initiative sites that year as part of their Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). Metz and Bley seized the opportunity, and joined forces to draft a proposal.

Led by the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, they collaborated with many public and private sector partners. This effort included the City of Marina, the University of California, California State University, Airspace Integration, Joby Aviation and many others.

While the Marina Airport was not given the UASIPP designation, the DART initiative benefited from the process. Through the proposal development process invaluable and lasting partnerships were formed. Interest in the project also confirmed the increasing market demand for drone testing and innovation spaces. This knowledge and support drove revision and expansion of the original concept and led to the development of the DART initiative.

DART was established as a public-private non-profit organization in 2019 to advance the initiative.

Our Impact on the Monterey Bay Region

From catalyzing partnerships to developing workforce training programs, DART’s work continues to impact the Monterey Bay Region.

Catalyzing regional business and research partnerships

By hosting events and facilitating  access to facilities, DART has aided in expanding private sector development and testing, and public sector and institutional partnerships.

After meeting at a DART event, the Naval Research Lab and Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) partnered with DART and Airspace Integration (ASI) to conduct research from the ASI airfield Monterey Bay Academy.

DART helped the NPS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and Coast Guard R&D testing facilities gain access to Airspace Integration, leading to a coordinated research program (COSTA project).

DART is working in partnership with UCSC-CIDER and ATA to launch the Central Coast Flight Information Exchange (Central Coast FIX).

Attracting Investment in Monterey Bay Businesses and Facilities Planning

DART has spurred new public, private, and philanthropic investment in the region.

The James Irvine Foundation awarded a $1.5 million grant to DART, the CSUMB Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED), and Joby Aviation in 2017. As part of the on-going Priority Communities Initiative in Salinas Valley, the grant funds employment opportunities and community development.

The grant will allow DART to:

  1. curate a tech cluster in the Monterey Bay region composed of industry, academic and government partners,
  2. fund a workforce training cohort program focused on advanced manufacturing and aircraft mechanics, and
  3. support completion of an advanced manufacturing workforce training facility feasibility study.

DART has also contributed to numerous State and Federal funding proposals, including:

  1. Uplift Central Coast: EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge Grant Proposal (2021)
  2. Uplift Central Coast: the Central Coast’s Community Economic Resilience (CERF) Proposal (2022)
  3. Uplift Central Coast: National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engine Grant Proposal (2022)

Pursuant to our commitment to participate in STEM curriculum development, DART provided guidance and supported grant application materials for successfully funding a Pajaro Valley Unified School District DART curriculum (2021).

Inspiring new educational and workforce training programs

After eight years running, DroneCamp provides training for folks at all skill levels. By establishing connections with the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources (UCANR) DART was able to facilitate bringing the event to Monterey. The week-long intensive event is hosted at CSUMB and UC MBEST Center.

Attracting new regional, state, national and international market attention to MB area

DART has attracted national investors to explore MB Aviation investment opportunities and coordinated with international consultancy on growth strategy.

Convening government, industry and academic experts at our annual DART Symposium

Each year DART hosts a Symposium, attracting thought leaders, practitioners, entrepreneurs and investors. Attendees attend panels, learn from local, state, and national thought leaders, and connect with other drone enthusiasts.

View past agendas and speakers for 2019 and 2021.

Students at CSUMB flying a drone outdoors

Our Commitment to Excellence

DART supports the development of a diverse and inclusive tech community in the Monterey Bay area, by promoting excellence in all areas of our work. Our goal is to inspire innovation, entrepreneurship, skills development, delivery of high-quality outcomes and the creation of well-paying jobs in the region.

Pursuant to our James Irvine Initiative, we aim to improve access to training, entrepreneurship and employment in the region. Our current scope of work includes a feasibility assessment for a DART education and training facility. This will support innovation in agriculture, manufacturing, and drone and advanced air mobility. Expansion in these areas will provide opportunities for training and advancement across sectors.

Our DART community advocates for inclusive economic development, and social and environmental justice. We collaborate with our partners in industry, education, policy, and advocacy, by sharing information and opportunities.