Teal Drones founder, George Matus, pilots the company’s new Golden Eagle drone near their offices in Holladay on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Steve Griffin, Deseret News
SOURCE Deseret News/ Art Raymond: HOLLADAY — Next time someone wanders off-trail in the High Uintas, imagine search and rescue teams having the ability to deploy, say, a hundred drones that can access any terrain, fly in virtually any weather, communicate with each other, pick out a lost person wandering in the woods with incredible accuracy, and even deliver water, food and other supplies until help arrives.
Oh, and because each of the vehicles has its own onboard computing power, including an artificial intelligence-driven operating platform, the vehicles can “see,” navigate, fly and even coordinate search routes independent of a human operator.
Sounds like a futurescape, but it’s a reality that is about to be in reach thanks to Utah-based Teal Drones and it’s just released, next-generation Golden Eagle drone.
Teal founder/CEO George Matus likened the evolution of drone vehicle technology to that of the cellphone.
“The way I thought about it when we first started was kind of like the brick phones from back in the day,” Matus said. “Having a single use device, a cellphone that was only capable of making a call and maybe sending a text is so far removed from the smartphone of today.
“That’s not too different with what has been happening with drones, which have for so long been not much more than a flying camera.”
Teal’s Golden Eagle, for sure, has a camera. A high-resolution 4K sensor unit as well as a forward-looking infrared thermographic camera, optimizing use for variable light conditions including low light and no light; an onboard Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile computing platform; data security that includes Advanced Encryption Standard security with a 256-bit key length; obstacle avoidance system and onboard artificial intelligence to enable autonomous flight; and a modular design that allows easy and fast swap out of components to minimize downtime.
The vehicle has a rugged airframe, can fly up to 50 minutes on a charge and cruise in excess of 50 mph. High-voltage propulsion enables the Golden Eagle to fly in winds of 30 mph or more and temperatures from negative 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also very stealthy with a low acoustic signature that, according to the company, makes it inaudible at minimum ranges.
Teal hit a lot of elevated drone performance marks established by the Defense Department while in development, but Matus noted those
same metrics give the new drone a lot of potential in commercial markets with broad uses envisioned for agriculture, surveying, construction, energy and logistics. And fast-expanding drone use is driving an industry that’s showing a steep upward curve with Barclay’s estimating the global commercial drone market will expand tenfold in the next five years, reaching a value of $40 billion.
While the capabilities of the Golden Eagle — along with a $12,000 price tag for the vehicle and operational package that puts it squarely in the realm of commercial and “pro-sumer” markets — ease of use is still a major development tenet for Teal.
“One of the first things anyone is going to notice about the Golden Eagle is how easy it is to fly,” Matus said. “It’s onboard intelligence makes it almost impossible to crash. It can fly in any sort of weather and users will feel like it’s an extension of themselves.”
To be sure, the vehicle also has a slew of much more somber potential uses and came into being in part thanks to a competitive U.S. Department of Defense development contract that helped accelerate the work Holladay-based Teal has been engaged in since launching in 2014.
On Aug. 20, the Defense Department announced Teal Drones as one of only five companies approved to provide compact high-tech remote vehicles to U.S. government entities.