What You Must Know if the Federal Government is Your Customer, with Dr. Nicholas Alley and Hilary Beeston, Area-I
Hilary Beeston: [00:00:00] I guess with the government, there’s just a lot of red tape to get through. There’s lots of documentation, and lots and lots of paperwork to fill out, and rules and regulations to follow, so it can be pretty tricky. And, you know, they are always doing audits on companies as well. So, they do a lot of audits on our accounts, even on our invoices. So, just, you know, keeping all your accounting documentation in line and complying for any audits that might come up. So, it is pretty tough.
Hilary Beeston: [00:00:43] And then, there’s also a way when you’re bidding out on proposals, you know, you have to do it a certain way. So, like, if you’re bidding a commercial item to a commercial customer, it is tricky.
Nicholas Alley: [00:00:58] Very. I think a nice example is, every year the government expects you to guess what your overhead rates are going to be. Like, how much, you know, it’s going to cost and rent and to keep power on and legal fees. And, you know, just think of any G&A overhead type thing to make you guess ahead of time what that rate is going to be. And if you screw up and your rate is lower and you have to pay that money back, you just lose it. And, you know, if it’s higher, they don’t pay you extra, right? It’s like, “Oh, well. Sorry.” And so, you know, Hillary’s been estimating that overhead for the last 12 years and never been off enough that it caused us any major pain, which is pretty amazing.
Dr. Nicholas Alley, CEO, and Hilary Beeston, CFO, Area-I
Dr. Nicholas Alley and Hilary Beeston cofounded Area-I in 2009. Hilary took on the role of CFO and her work has been key to navigating Area-I’s business with the federal government.
Dr. Nicholas Alley received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in fluids and flight mechanics from Utah State University in 2006. Studying under Dr. Warren Phillips, he gained a background in aerodynamics and flight mechanics. While at USU, Dr. Alley was involved in the design and construction of five unmanned aircraft and was the chief engineer and faculty advisor for the student-designed USU Wright Flyer, which successfully flew at venues all over the nation in celebration of the centennial of flight.
After graduation, he spent a year at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) where he developed and deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to aid in the protection of INL’s nuclear facilities. In the fall of 2007, he took a research faculty position in the Aerospace Engineering department at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he was the instructor for the unmanned aircraft design class and the faculty advisor for Georgia Tech’s AIAA design-build-fly student teams.
Dr. Alley left Georgia Tech in January of 2009 and founded Area-I, Inc., an aerospace technology firm in the Atlanta area that specializes in the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Since 2009, Area-I has grown to over 100 personnel, received nearly $100 million in government and private contracts, and is actively engaged in developing UAS, and UAS-related technologies for the Air Force, Navy, Army, and NASA.
At Area-I, Dr. Alley continued his tradition of aircraft design by utilizing his software tools, which can quickly and accurately predict aircraft performance, to lay the framework for a company that has since established a reputation for designing highly engineered, mission-specific unmanned aircraft. Area-I is currently leading the development and testing of new unmanned aircraft for the Air Force, Army, and Navy as well the autonomy that allows those aircraft to carry out highly specialized missions with minimal operator oversight. Area-I’s primary platform, ALTIUS, is a high-endurance fixed-wing aircraft that folds up such that it fits into a specialized launch tube. ALTIUS is then carried aloft, launched, and controlled from a mothership, such as the AC-130 gunship, the UH-60 Blackhawk, or the NOAA P-3 hurricane hunter.
The “One Minute Interview” series is produced by John Ray and in the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX® in Alpharetta. You can find the full archive of shows by following this link.
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