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  • Writer's pictureRyan Buckley

Meeting Minutes - 5/6/21

Minutes from the DVTI Meeting held on May 6, 2021

DVTI Meeting

May 6, 2021

Present: Beth Arman, Colleen Awad, Steve Boyle, Ryan Buckley, Kelly Calhoun, Amalia Cunningham, Ed Del Beccaro, Joe Figura, Maxime Gariel, Vicki Gordon, Jeanette Green, Joellen Heaney, Bob Linscheid, John Matthesen, Matthew Schmuck, Sean Trambley, Linsey Willis --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ryan opened the meeting at 3:01 pm with introductions.

Approval of March 4, 2021 Minutes:

  • Motion: Jeanette; 2nd: Vicki; Unanimous

Public Comment:

  • East Bay Economic Development Alliance opened a nominations period for innovation awards.

2021 Goals:

  • It is important for DVTI to choose an industry with growth opportunities to focus on and include in an economic development plan for the Diablo Valley.

  • The current focus on drones and autonomous vehicles. There is a tremendous growth opportunity and job opportunities in agriculture, shipping, insurance, and security, especially in the northern part of the county (industrial sector).

Drone Panel Q&A: Maxime Gariel, CTO, Xwing, Joseph Figura, Founder, Buoyant Technologies,

Q: How did you find out about Byron and Buchanan? What brought you to Contra Costa county? Maxime: Was looking for a place to fly sizeable drones. Explored Bay Area airports from Marin to San Jose. Fewer people fly at Buchanan. The airport is sizeable with four runways. Close enough to San Francisco to attract talent. People can easily commute for the day to work on the airplane. Joe: Was looking for space to operate. Can’t fly to San Francisco. There was a choice between using private land or basing out of an airport. Contra Costa county was marketing aggressively as a place for drone companies to fly. Byron is uncontrolled airspace without the regulatory overhead. Can accept the risk that crashes won’t be harmful. Also an easy commute from the city or other parts of the bay.

Q: Are you finding the talent pool you need in the east bay? Maxime: We keep our office in San Francisco because our employees who live on the peninsula or south bay have a hard time with commuting out here. Joe: I have not yet tried to hire anyone. The easiest place to hire is San Francisco. Hiring from the Diablo Valley rules out workers from the South Bay.

Q: Curious about the marketplace for drone security. Are there concerns about drones impacting safety of the airports (radio-controlled frequency)? Where is technology now? Maxime: Our company is looking at drones for security. Mostly drones are flown by professionals in a good and safe manner. Some will have bad intentions, but a lot of work is being done in countermeasures. There is still a lot more work to be done, and we need to be careful. Joe: Not much to say beyond that.

Q: Fast forward five years: will we fly drones out of Byron? Maxime: We are looking to expand our footprint; looking for bigger hangers at Buchanan and Byron. Airports are getting a little outdated; we are looking at building more modern space and updating hangars with space for R&D. We will have a significant presence of tech and manufacturing workers. A combination of hangar space and office space is very important. Joe: A lot depends on the growth of the industry overall. The strength of the Diablo Valley as a way to attract people is that it is the easiest place to operate within commuting distance. If drone delivery takes off, Byron will be a really good place to operate. It is a low-risk area, and they are updating hangers. We need a workspace adjacent to hangars. Right now the hangars are designed for aircraft and light maintenance. Looks like they’ll also have adjacent office space.

Q: Can you describe what the challenges are around the kind of work that you do and the reason why Buchanan and Byron are attractive? What is unique about them? Maxime: Given the size of the airplane we’re flying, the longer runway is useful. Palo Alto is a very busy airspace; we cannot do whatever we want – we need to consult traffic delays, etc. The Buchanan control tower is flexible. It is an ideal location. Joe: Space availability and cost of hangar. I didn’t look at other airports. The thing that attracted me is that there was a drone program set up already. I can operate with the level of overhead that I’m comfortable with. Byron is uncontrolled airspace.

Q: What kind of experience do you need to hire? Pilot? Technical? Aviation? Maxime: We hire across the board: software, aircraft maintenance, technicians, flight test engineers, pilots, systems engineers, software engineers, networking, electrical engineers, hardware engineers, maintenance crew.

Q: Do you think about turning to DVC or the universities on the perimeter when you are looking for talent? Maxime: Too early to know. Some employees will be remote. There will be a need for people to have some idea of the airspace, weather, and safety. There will be a need for technicians to take care of vehicles. We currently have a posting for an internship; we are reviewing over 100 applications. Joe: I would first think of engineering, then expand. I feel I need to be particular about who I hire and hire through my network because, for a start-up, a bad hire early on is risky and could sink the whole thing. I’m a couple of years away but could connect with schools depending on specific skill sets.

Q: Is there a larger regulatory shift on the horizon that will inhibit the growth? Maxime: There is some work to do with the FAA. Having local airport authorities support is great, but the work we have to do is at the federal level. Joe: The FAA has worked with the industry over the past couple of years. They are continually taking steps to certify drone airframes, drone operators, carriers. FAA doesn’t move fast, but their approach is reasonable. Drone programs won’t be held back, we just need to work to show the FAA that they’re safe. Beth will follow up with Maxime and Joe about speaking to DVC students.

Standing Items:

  • Workforce Development:

    • Introduction to Technology Sales course was approved. This can be edited to be drone sales. Can be as applicable as we want to local companies.

    • DVC CS/CIS/CNT Advisory Board Approved:

      • Python programming certificate

      • AWS Course

      • Data Science Course

      • iOS Development Course

We will discuss Blockchain Development course at the next Advisory Board meeting – either in a Bootcamp format or as another certificate program.

  • SBDC (John): It was decided that bidding would be unmanageable for DVC given the money and dedicated staff required.

  • Bob Linscheid will connect Ryan to Martin Minnich, leader of the Cyber Security Institute at Cal Poly. They do a lot of digital literacy and cybersecurity programs, and he is doing workforce training. We will loop in Jim and Carlyn and discuss more at the next meeting.

  • More information at the next meeting about high-speed fiberoptic expansion.

Adjourned at 4 pm.

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