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East Bay EDA Honors Two Alameda Businesses for Innovation

Saildrone and Rain receive 11th annual East Bay Innovation Awards

On Thursday, March 28, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (East Bay EDA) held the 11th annual East Bay Innovation Awards at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center. Two Alameda organizations, Saildrone and Rain, were among the 10 winners awarded for their achievements that contribute to the East Bay’s legacy of pioneering advancements.

Alameda Post - a Saildrone drone sits in the water off of Alameda Point
A Saildrone Surveyor vessel. Photo Adam Gillitt.

The East Bay Innovation Awards is a platform that recognizes outstanding businesses and organizations from Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The winners of this year’s awards include: Saildrone for Advanced Manufacturing, Rain for Technology, Native American Health Center for Arts and Culture, Terner Housing Innovation Labs for Built Environment, Lilac Solutions Inc. for Clean Tech, District Works for Community Impact, Kids Teach Tech for Education, Ambi Robotics for Engineering and Design, Torani Syrups & Flavors for Food, and Bakar Labs for Life Sciences.



The Contra Costa Transportation Authority also was honored with the 2024 Legacy Award for its pioneering efforts in transportation innovation, and Alameda County District 5 Supervisor Keith Carson was recognized with the 2024 Lifetime Civic Innovator award for his lifelong dedication to public service, presented by the Executive Committee leaders of East Bay EDA.

One of the Alameda-based winners, Saildrone, is based in the former Naval Air Station and leases one of the 100,000-square-foot hangars as well as an adjacent 50,000-square-foot warehouse facility. According to the company’s website, “Saildrone’s measurements and observations, from above and below the ocean surface, provide intelligence and insight for challenges from maritime defense and seafloor mapping to earth system processes such as weather forecasting, carbon cycling, and sustainable fisheries management. Powered by renewable wind and solar energy with a low operational carbon footprint, we deliver critical data from the most remote areas of the ocean in near-real-time and at scale.”

CFO Barak Ben-Gal told the Alameda Post, “All of the nominees and finalists for this award do incredible work—Saildrone winning the Advanced Manufacturing award from across this impressive group is clear recognition of the innovative nature of Saildrone’s work. We have been breaking new ground in unmanned maritime data collection for over 10 years—whether in sailing into hurricanes or detecting illegal maritime trafficking—and this award helps to highlight the impact that our work is having across ocean science, ocean mapping, and ocean security.”

As for what Saildrone is working on right now, the CFO says they’re currently scaling the production of a vehicle called the Surveyor (pictured above), the first of a new generation of their largest class of uncrewed surface vehicles (USV).

“The Surveyor will provide the U.S. Navy and other government customers with a cutting-edge solution for open-ocean hydrographic surveys and maritime domain awareness (MDA) missions that require persistent wide-area coverage,” Ben-Gal said. “Saildrone Surveyors are designed to free up crewed assets for more specific and important tasks, while also reducing risk to crews and lowering the carbon footprint of maritime defense.”

Saildrone also will be launching their fourth consecutive hurricane mission with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this summer to support continuing research concerning how and why some tropical storms rapidly intensify into hurricanes.

Alameda Post - One of Rain's autonomous drones
One of Rain’s autonomous drones. Photo Rain.aero.

Rain, the other Alameda innovation award winner, also located on the former Navy base, is a leader in aerial wildfire containment technology, which helps fire agencies more rapidly suppress wildfires during the earliest stages of ignition. Rain adapts existing autonomous aircrafts with the ability to perceive, understand, and suppress wildfire, which enables aircrafts to be prepositioned in remote locations, improving response time.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants in the community, really incredibly honored to be recognized among past winners like the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Tesla, and Dupont,” CEO Maxwell Brodie told the Post in response to receiving the award. “It’s also a wonderful validation of our work to equip fire agencies with technology to stop wildfires before they grow out of control. Wildfires affect us all—not just on smoky days. They emit carbon and particulates also, which lends a sense of urgency to our mission.”

Right now, Rain is continuing their work with autonomous aircrafts that are able to identify and suppress spot fires. “We’re currently focused on operationalizing these initial capabilities with fire agency partners, and expanding our autonomous wildfire suppression capabilities,” Brodie said. “And we’re looking forward to welcoming the endangered least terns back to their home just across the runway from our headquarters in the former aircraft control tower here on Alameda Point. We expect them to show up mid-month and we have our eyes peeled.”

The CEO says Alameda is the perfect home for Rain. “There’s an incredible climate tech community here on the base. From Natel (fish-safe hydro) to Kairos (nuclear), we feel like we’re among climate friends,” he said. “Our building is a unique space that’s well suited to our mission, and Alameda and the East Bay are a welcoming business environment. We definitely owe gratitude to the City of Alameda, our Chamber of Commerce, and of course the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, who should get an award all their own for supporting and promoting innovation here on the East side of the Bay.”

Kelsey Goeres is a contributing writer for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Kelsey-Goeres.

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