Every year Forbes Magazine puts out a “30 Under 30” list of the most promising young entrepreneurs within a range of economic fields. Among the list of promising individuals under the age of 30 in the consumer technology category for 2018 was 22 year old George Matus from Holladay, Utah. When George was still a high school student he founded Teal Drones. Matus had always loved flying drones, but from a young age, he knew that drones had the possibility of being greater than just a flying camera. He started making a list of what he hoped drones would be able to accomplish in the future. It wasn’t long before George’s ideas were brought to the attention of the Thiel Foundation. Established by Peter Thiel to bring to fruition the ideas of young technological visionaries, the Thiel Foundation enabled George to fully launch Teal Drones and his first prototype, the Teal One.
The Teal One fulfilled George’s vision of building a drone that is easy and enjoyable to use but goes beyond just a flying camera. As described on the company website, “The Teal One™ translates the thrill of a finely tuned sports car into an airborne experience with speeds up to 60 MPH. Slice through the sky with premium handling and responsiveness that puts you in the cockpit for an experience like no other.” With a state of the art onboard computer that connects with an app, the drone provides users with ever changing flight experiences. With the success of the Teal One, George went on to design the Teal Sport, an FPV (First Person View) drone that is one of the fastest drones available. It can reach speeds of 80 mph right out of the box, allowing users to race instantly. The drone’s modular body makes it easy to swap out parts when needed while the onboard computer gives the drone superior flight control.
Teal Drone’s innovative thinking and 100% American based manufacturing have also caught the attention of the United States of America Department of Defense (DOD). For several years now, the US government has been looking for alternate drone manufacturers, fearing the possibility of foreign made drones being used as spyware. In 2019, Rick Scott, a Republican Senator from Florida sponsored a bill called The American Security Drone Act that would ban any government agencies from purchasing off the shelf drones manufactured in China. Though the bill has not yet passed, the DOD established the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as a way to accelerate American made defensive technologies. After 18 months of research and planning the DIU has chosen 5 American based companies to be awarded $11 million collectively to design a new drone for the US Army, one of which is Teal Drone.
The goal of this new partnership as explained by George is to design a drone that is “to be a rucksack portable, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft the warfighter can have in their bag, pull out at any time, launch into the air and see what’s around the next terrain feature, whether that’s a hill or a building or whatever.” The DOD has a massive budget to support war drones, but the majority of these drones are drones that need to be deployed from a stable location. Recognizing the benefit of small portable drones in combat situations, the DOD is determined to utilize this technology. However, an American made reliable model simply is not available, yet.
The 5 teams vying for the final government contract are Vantage Robotics, Skydio, Parrot, Altavian, and of course Teal. They were each given one year to create a prototype to meet the DIU’s military drone objectives. Though being pitted against some of the biggest drone companies, with senior members old enough to be a parent to George, he is confident of Teal’s chance to win the $100 million final contract and welcomes the challenge.
Teal has had tremendous success designing 2 small, highly adaptable drones. Along the way, many mistakes were made, mistakes that proved to be valuable learning experiences that will lead George and his team to building an ideal prototype for the project. Though still only in his 20’s, George has come a long way from being a boy who loved to fly model planes in his parent’s backyard. “I got that first radio-controlled plane and really fell in love with it,” he said. “I started learning as much as I could about hardware and software and flying. I was running lemonade stands and doing magic shows and babysitting to save up to buy my next $200 plane.” Now, with millions of dollars in investments, there’s no telling just how high George will soar.