Underwater vehicle manufacturer aims to open Pittsfield facility

Dive Technologies employees work on the company's DIVE-LD autonomous underwater vehicle. The company, which leases space in the Berkshire Innovation Center, is planning to open a facility in Pittsfield once it's ready to ramp up manufacturing.

PITTSFIELD — A company that leases space in the Berkshire Innovation Center has received a $1.3 million loan from MassDevelopment to ramp up its operations in Quincy and establish a manufacturing facility in Pittsfield.

Dive Technologies, which designs and manufactures state-of-the-art autonomous underwater vehicles, could have its Pittsfield facility open by late 2021.

The loan will help the company hire 30 new full-time employees to be split equally between Dive's two locations, according to company co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Sam Russo, who lives in Pittsfield.

He said the Pittsfield jobs would be "very much demand-driven" and would come once the Pittsfield facility is up and running.

"In the fourth quarter of 2021 is when we could start to ramp up for production," Russo said.

Russo, a West Point graduate, served as business manager of autonomous undersea systems at General Dynamics Mission Systems before co-founding Dive Technologies in 2018. His company is developing the DIVE-LD, an autonomous underwater vehicle scheduled for commercial underwater survey purposes in deep- and shallow-water upstream and midstream oil and gas operations, offshore wind farms, and intelligence community and military applications.

Russo described the DIVE-LD as the first of the next generation of autonomous underwater vehicles.

"Picture an aerial drone for the ocean that's completely unmanned," Russo said. He said the vehicles can operate as far as 6,000 feet below the ocean's surface for eight-day stretches and gather data through a large collection device.

"Right now, because we're building, we need to be close to the ocean for design and testing," Russo said. "When this vehicle goes to market, and we expect testing to be done this summer, we realize we'll need a production facility to meet that demand, and our goal is to have a production facility in Pittsfield."

Dive received the loan from MassDevelopment's Emerging Technology Fund, which provides low-cost, long-term venture debt to early-stage, emerging technology companies. 

It plans to use the money to purchase equipment for its facility in Quincy, where it is developing and testing its product.

"We'll be outfitting some of the equipment to build the vehicles," he said. "The building design is underway, and this will allow us to recoup the cost."

Michael Coakley, Pittsfield's business development manager, said city officials introduced Dive Technologies to MassDevelopment about 18 months ago.

"Their plan all along is to have their headquarters based in Quincy — they're building their first prototypes down there — and once the demand warrants it, to do the manufacturing of their autonomous underwater vehicles in Pittsfield," he said.

"So, this is great news," Coakley said. "I think they're on schedule and everything is going according to plan."

In a news release, MassDevelopment stated that the production facility could open by the end of next year. But, Russo said that timeline is more of a goal than a  certain date.

"I'm being careful," he said. "I don't want to set a false expectation for our product. Once we have the orders coming for sales, those are the triggers that I'm watching, but I can't commit to a finite timeline."

Where a Pittsfield production facility would be located, and how big it would be, also are undecided.

"From time to time I've looked at real estate that's on the market, but I don't have a good answer for that," he said.

Ben Sosne, executive director of the BIC, said the company has been using the Pittsfield facility's state-of-the-art 3D printer to help design its vehicles. 

"We were awarded a capital skills grant last year for a big printer, and they're one of the major users of that," Sosne said. "Sam was working out of our facility daily before [the pandemic hit]. They've got two interns, one from Dalton and one from Stockbridge, up here this summer."

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-2755.