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Monday, January 22, 2018

19-year-old builds the world's fastest production drone

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At only 19 years old, George Matus has revolutionized the unmanned flight industry with what he calls "the Swiss Army Knife of drones." Teal, Matus' Utah-based company that closed a $6 million round of funding in 2015, prides itself on engineering the world's fastest and arguably most advanced production drone.


Teal CEO George Matus works at his desk in  Salt Lake City, Utah.

The drone flies at over 75 mph, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in just 1.1 seconds; carries an onboard supercomputer; records in 4k video; and is fully customizable. Matus got involved in the unmanned flight industry at age 10 and quickly fell in love. At age 12 he became a test pilot for a leading drone company and began to develop his own designs. Matus explained how he began to feel the desire to develop the perfect drone at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit.

"I built this wish list of everything that I would want in a drone if I were to build my own," Matus said. He raised a $150,000 pre-revenue round of funding in 2014 to get things started and continued to show promise. In December of 2015, Teal closed $2.8 million in seed funding to accelerate growth, followed by most recently raising $3 million in 2016. Matus recently graduated from high school, but he said he deferred going to college to devote his time and energy towards his company.

"Everyone understands drones to be 'flying cameras,' but at Teal we see it differently," Teal Project Manager Bob Miles said. "Drones have the potential for so much more than just aerial photography - we're out to redefine what a drone is; that's the path we're taking to make Teal a success." Miles said the Teal drone's 76 mph speed is one selling point, but its biggest differentiator is the onboard supercomputer.

Miles also said what it was like to work for Matus at Teal. "At 18, I would have been the last person you'd want to work for, but George (Matus) is not your average teenager. His optimism combined with a willingness to listen makes for the ultimate boss - I've never worked for someone who has fostered such respect from the team." PwC expects the drone market to be worth as much as $127 billion in 2020.

BYU engineering professor and experienced drone user Kevin Franke said he also sees great things in the future for drones. "Soon UAVs (drones) will be integrated into many aspects of our lives, including delivering our packages and our pizza, watching over our kids as they play outside, inspecting our infrastructure on a regular basis and improving our digital communications," Franke said. Amazon has been working on its Prime Air program for over a year now and talks about the day when drones will deliver packages to houses across the world in less than 30 minutes, according to its website. Matus and his team agree.

"It's really Day One for drones," Matus said. "In the consumer and commercial space, all drones are really single-use case devices. The idea with Teal is to build more of a universal platform, a drone that you could call the smart phone of drones." Teal is looking for BYU electrical engineering students to intern as it ramps up for manufacturing. Teal's first drone made ship May 2017.


The writer is an active blogger. The write-up has also appeared on  www.universe.byu.edu

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