I’ve officially found my new hero. His name is George Matus and though we’ve never met in person, I spoke with him on the phone for 30 minutes and that’s all it took to convince me. He’s the 18-year old founder of Teal Drones and even though he generates feelings of incredibly inadequacy for all my life’s accomplishments, he’s still my hero. Is it a little strange that me, a 30-year old man, now has a hero 12 years his younger? Yes it is but after you learn the story of Teal Drones, Matus will be your hero too.
As any good 11-year old child knows, flying mini-helicopters and planes is freaking awesome. Matus fell directly into this category. Unlike most children, Matus’ passion for flying crafts led him into the world of building and modifying these aerial creatures, where he began developing an understanding for the nuances of flight. Alongside this understanding came a wish list comprising all the things Matus wanted flying machines to be able to do but couldn’t.
At 12, Matus became a test pilot for a drone company. I don’t know how this is possible — when I was 12, my greatest achievement was mowing my parents lawn — but it’s true. The next time a crusty old-timer brings up all the transgressions of today’s youth, let them know that some kids are drone test pilots and what did you do that was so cool, old man?
As part of the program Matus received drone hardware/software before it was launched on the market, a great way to finely tune technical expertise if somebody were ever wanting to launch a drone company when they were 18, hint, hint.
“Between the time I was 11–16 years old, I was able to fly most of the products on the market, get hands on experience, and basically build this wish list of everything I would want in a drone if I were ever to build my own,” said Matus. “That’s how Teal came to be.”
Matus started Teal in Salt Lake City nearly two years ago on the wings of some pre-seed money from angel investor Mark Harris, hammering out a rough idea for an all-encompassing drone that would fulfill his deepest wishes and desires. More help came in the form of the Thiel Fellowship, a program created by tech billionaire Peter Thiel that gives a $100,000 grant “to young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.” Teal continued to push forward under the radar, completing an unannounced (until now) seed round last December for $2.8 million led by Pelion Venture Partners (here’s Pelion Senior Associate Ben Lambert expressing his enthusiasm for the investment). Also participating in the round were Kickstart Seed Fund, NEA, Highland Capital, and Mark Harris.
At the end of July 2016, the time had come: Teal Drones was officially launched and for all you drone enthusiasts, now is the time to start salivating.
“Every drone on the market today is built for a specific use case,” said Matus. “The idea behind this was to build the only drone you would ever need.”
In the current landscape, each drone fills a certain niche. There are racing drones. There are filming drones. There are drones you use to smash things. Teal wants to combine every conceivable use case into one drone, offering all kinds of options to appease users of every shape and size.
Teal Drones go over 70 mph and can withstand wind of up to 40 mph, numbers that categorize them as the world’s fastest production drone. They are weatherproof. They allow users to record 4K video and snap 13MP still pictures. They feature an onboard supercomputer built directly into the drone, a feature that Matus says makes “Teal the first drone ever to have any sort of powerful computing platform built directly into it.” And perhaps the coolest aspect of Teal revolves around what developers can build on their own time.
“For the developer we’re releasing SDKs and APIs, sort of like a smartphone where developers can start to build an app store around it and explore the capabilities,” said Matus.
As a general rule, if Josh James is fired up about what you’re doing from a development perspective, you’re probably doing the right thing:
18-year-old Utahn builds Teal, a drone that flies 70mph, with vision of open APIs; gets $2.8M in funding! https://t.co/CIww9KYz6y
— Josh James (@joshjames) August 2, 2016
The first 500 drones are currently in production, with plans to ship before the end of the year. Sporting the ability to upgrade over time, Matus envisions Teal being used for an unlimited number of purposes — racing, search and rescue, commercial, agricultural, building inspection/surveying, even simply for those who enjoy using drones as a hobby. Drones for one use? That’s a thing of the past.
By now you’re probably thinking this is pretty awesome, but maybe you feel a little bad that Matus doesn’t have any spare time on his hands. Oh wait, that’s not true because Matus recently participated on ABC’s BattleBots, a competition where contestants build their own robots and fight them to their metallic deaths. What a world, where 18-year olds are creating destroyer robots, starting their own companies, raising millions of dollars, and looking to jumpstart the next stage of drone evolution. What a world.
“I like to compare the drones out there today to the flip and brick phones of a decade ago,” said Matus. “This is finally the smartphone of drones where it can do a lot more, it’s not limited to a particular niche and opens the door to so many capabilities and future potential.”