Science, Exploration, Defense
Desert Star Systems LLC is an Underwater Technology Manufacturer located in Monterey Bay, California (Marina, CA).
Coordinates: 36º 40.667’N 121º 45.716’W
We manufacture electronic animal tags, passive acoustic recorders, acoustic releases, SCUBA diver homing systems, underwater positioning systems and a host of other equipment. We employ about 20 people…have a full staff of engineers, production assemblers, customer support, and sales/marketing crew to help in all of your needs. Desert Star Systems is fully owned and operated by its employees!
All of our products are Made in America, here in Marina, California. Engineering, design, and final assembly is in-house. Our product lines are optimized for large sample size applications at affordable costs. Not just our technology but our business methods pave the way for enabling our customers to achieve scientific relevance through high volume, low prices, and advanced technology.
Going above and beyond since 1992
Visit Desert Star Systems and you will find a company infused with a passion for science and exploration, cutting edge engineering and quality manufacturing. It is a company where SCUBA classes are offered as a job benefit and a place where testing equipment in the rigors of Antarctica or joining a user for weeks of instrument deployment at sea are considered as essential as understanding the physics of the magnetosphere or knowledge and application of the latest programming environment.
Founded by Marco Flagg in 1992 on the idea of a “buddy finder” for SCUBA divers, our company soon won a SBIR award from NOAA to develop a precision diver tracking and communication capability for the agency’s Aquarius underwater laboratory in Key Largo, FL. This development with its challenging requirement for operation in shallow waters with high background noise levels and extensive reverberations became the basis of an entire line of underwater positioning and communication systems, that continues as a core competency and revenue generator of our company today.
The understanding that the development of effective technology for use in earth’s most extreme environments requires deep personal field expertise was essential to the subsequent development of the FrogEye amphibious camera for the U.S. Special Operations Command. Here, Desert Star’s design team was competed against two manufacturers including Kodak. But based on innovations such as a free-flooded telephoto lens coupled with electron multiplier CCD night vision that allows divers to image distant targets in brief surface intervals, Desert Star became the only team to introduce a production design. FrogEye has since been deployed by multiple allied military and is assigned NATO stock numbers (NSN).
Throughout its history, our company has emphasized hiring a skunk-works like crew, individuals with a variety of often unconventional backgrounds and individuals who might be overlooked in the regular course of hiring, but who come together here to be given the freedom to experiment and create products that are advanced yet tough and practical. Our customers enjoy visiting here and working with us, and they’ve referred to us as the “University of Desert Star” or a tribe on more than one occasion.
Our recent R&D efforts have been concentrated on satellite and other electronic marine animal tags, a field where NOAA, seeking greater innovation and reduced tagging costs, awarded Desert Star Systems another SBIR. Working closely with our science customers, SeaTag devices have introduced earth magnetic field sensing to fix the location of fish beyond the reach of GPS, solar power that supports operation underwater “indefinitely,” and ultra precision sensors that can sense centimeter level changes in depth to depths of hundreds of meters. Here, the modularity of our product line has enabled increasing economies of scale, as we develop and then deploy technologies across an arc of new devices. This is now providing the cost reductions desired by the science community and essential for the increasingly sophisticated and large-scale studies of the behavior of marine animals in complex and changing eco-systems.
Recently, a visiting journalist working on a story about SeaTag observed that our long history of developing technologies for a spectrum of military and science applications may have provided us with “technological overkill” that we are now bringing to bear on the electronic tagging market. This is a statement that points to the future of our company. Nearly twenty years of concentrated effort have provided us with a product and technological portfolio of a much larger organization – one ranging from small high-precision sensor platforms to extensive underwater tracking ranges.
Today, as we are changing operations to prepare for future growth, Desert Star is at an inflection point in its history. Our company’s ultimate value to you, our customers, rests in scaling of our capabilities, in applying our know-how and technology to ever more substantial tasks.
And so, our company’s mission is simple: To help you solve the problems of the future.
Meet the Team
Founder and CEO
Desert Star is a remarkable story and a remarkable company, which I have the great privilege of leading. Powered by a passion for the oceans, getting to where we are meant journeys of science, engineering and exploration to the most remote regions from the bottom of the mid-Atlantic to under the ice in Antarctica. The dangers at times were potentially deadly, including a great white shark attack stopped cold by our sturdy early gear to submarine emergencies over 2800 fathoms below the seas. Today, our innovation is based on over 25 years of deep insights into 'how things work' in earth's oceans. I split my time between field work gaining new insights often in partnership with our customers, translation of these insights into new products in our lab and leading our multi-generation company, with now its third generation of owner-operators. At DSS we can almost certainly advise and answer your questions on matters satellite tagging, underwater acoustic monitoring, the application of acoustic releases in rope-less fishing or to deploy large instrument arrays, underwater precision positioning/surveying, acoustic communication and more. I urge you to contact our capable team members first for a fast response and am looking forward to assist in making your project a success!
As production Manager my goals are to improve quality, reduce lead times, and bring down the cost to manufacture. Teamwork is key to our success and I am proud to be a member of the Desert Star Team. Through teamwork, innovation, hard work, study, and much perseverance, we constantly accomplish our goals. 'ADAPT' has been a life long motto of mine as change is always happening and necessary to remain relevant. After Graduating from North Monterey County High School in 1994, I started working for Mark Pastick at Kayak Connection in Moss Landing. Mark introduced me to Marco Flagg who had recently moved, Desert Star Systems, into the same facility. Marco showed me the Aqua Map System and I was so excited I told him I'd work for free for the opportunity to learn the technology. Marco told he had applied for an S.B.I.R. and that if he won the contract he'd hire me, so I became the first employee at Desert Star Systems. I am passionate about the work we do here at desert Star Systems.
Design Engineer/Engineering Department Manager
Aaron started at Desert Star Systems in 2013 as a draftsman, and on account of innovative, high-quality work as well as obvious management skills quickly rose through the ranks to become the company's senior mechanical engineer as well as the engineering department manager. His passion is the combination of mechanical with electronic/control & sensing design to create functionak and practical systems. he has successfully completed a plethora of projects ranging from small tag development, implementation of the mechanical elements of our SonarPoint underweater sound localization array, and an innovative machine to acquire magnetic point cloud data for precision calibartion of our geomagnetic sensing tags. Competant in Solidworks CAD, IT, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and pressure vessel design. Aaron has developed methods of tag development using 3D printed components that enable rapid adaptation of our standard tags to meet the form factor and attachment needs for specific animals or research requirements. As engineering manager, Aaron stays on top of project completion schedules and advises and assists engineers to meet their project goals.
DiveTracker Department Manager
Since 2014 I’ve managed to log hundreds of hours of bottom time, diving in the frigid waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. My ultimate passion is for underwater sciences and being able to communicate the beauty of the ocean with the globe. In late 2017, I became an AAUS Scientific Diver and began my PADI Divemaster Training assisting with SCUBA instruction and leading dive teams out to explore the California coastline. When I’m not in office, I’m hard at work finishing my bachelors degree in Marine Science with a minor in Biology at Cal State University, Monterey Bay. Living so close to the ocean, I have had the amazing chance to spend much of my free time doing underwater videography and have even helped film for an underwater documentary. Working for the Desert Star team has been immensely gratifying for me because of the contributions we are making toward both the scientific community and diver safety as a whole. We as divers have the opportunity to explore parts of the world and witness the unfathomable splendor of nature, many only dream of seeing. As the DiveTracker Department Manager, I hope to utilize my background in SCUBA to help you the customer optimize your time underwater and execute your objectives with streamline efficiency.