CHAMPAIGN – If you've ever taken a commercial airline flight, you've heard the familiar warning to turn off all cell phones and electronic devices before takeoff.
The reason: The signals might interfere with the plane's electronic communications systems.
That kind of interference is "exactly the sort of problem" Champaign-based Delcross Technologies is trying to solve, said company president Matt Miller – only Delcross is working with the Air Force and Navy to help solve electronic interference problems on ships, aircraft and other military vehicles.
Delcross has been around only since July 2006, but already it has three Small Business Innovation Research contracts – two with the Navy and one with the Air Force – as well as a Small Business Technology Transfer contract with the Navy.
Within a couple years, the company hopes to commercialize some of its software.
Delcross, at 2009 Fox Drive, C, has six employees, two of them hired in the last two months. It hopes to add three more soon: a computer scientist, a radio-frequency communications engineer and a computational electromagnetics engineer.
Miller, the company's 32-year-old founder, formed another small firm, Electromagnetics and Electronics Solutions, in 2005. The following year, he decided to change the corporate structure, and with Bob Kipp as chief scientist, started Delcross Technologies.
Kipp, like Miller, had worked at Science Applications International Corp. in Champaign. Kipp – who now works from Chicago – recruited two former SAIC employees, Fred German and Tod Courtney, to join the Delcross team. Today, all four have ownership interests in Delcross.
Initially, Miller offered engineering services to clients, doing analysis and running software that simulated how antennas performed. One of the first jobs was for the ferries division of the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Later, the company worked on Small Business Innovation Research proposals for Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico and for Navair, the naval air systems command that develops and delivers aircraft, weapons and systems for the Navy.
Several of the SBIR contracts have since advanced to Phase II.
In 2007, Delcross had $560,000 in revenues, and Miller said it's projecting $1.1 million in revenues this year and, for the first time, a profit.
The strengths of Delcross, according to one of its clients, is its ability to assemble diverse, competent teams and follow through with what it says it will do.
"They've been able to write very good proposals and put together strong teams," said Ollie Allen, the chief radar systems engineer for Navair in Patuxent River, Md. "We have several contracts with them under the SBIR program and the Small Business Technical Transfer program."
"The teams they're able to put together are pretty diverse," he said. "On one of our contracts, they have faculty from the University of Illinois and North Carolina State University. Another project has faculty from the University of Michigan.
"I suspect, within the next couple years, we'll have a Phase III contract with them as well," Allen said.
Two of the Delcross owners have ties to the UI. Miller, who lives in Neoga, received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the UI in 1998 before getting a master's degree in applied physics from the University of Washington at Seattle in 2000. He worked at SAIC from 2001 to 2005.
Courtney, 36, of Champaign received a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from the UI in 1994 and a master's degree in electrical engineering from the UI in 1996. After working at SAIC from 1996 to 2000, he became a programmer at the UI working with engineering professors.
Kipp, 42, worked at SAIC longer than the others – from 1993 to 2006. A graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, he received a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Washington at Seattle in 1993.
German, 43, of Champaign received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Auburn University and worked at SAIC from 1999 to 2000 before moving to San Diego to work for Flomerics Group PLC.
The company's most recent additions are Laura Robinson, who joined the company as finance director in April, and Apollo Crum, a computer scientist who joined Delcross last week.