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This teenager built a consumer drone that flies 85mph

July 20th, 2016 at 3:35 PM
Teal Drone: George Matus

DJI, the best-known drone maker in the world, builds a $1,300 drone that flies 45mph. So when an 18-year-old promises to sell a drone that travels twice as fast for the same price, while packing in a bunch of computing smarts, it’s a big claim.

George Matus is the teenage founder of Teal, a drone startup that’s launching its first product today. He says that a childhood obsession with drones and drone racing has pushed him to defer college, take startup money from billionaire investor Peter Thiel, and found his own company.

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The drone goes on pre-order for $1,300 today, with delivery promised by the end of the year. It differs a little from other prosumer drones you’re probably familiar with: although there is a 4K camera on board, the focus of this drone seems to be more about performance, and far less about photography.

With a top speed of 85mph and a claim to withstand winds of up to 40mph, boasting about performance is no surprise. But it’s not a one-trick pony. The onboard computing is handled by an Nvidia TX1, a powerful computer that should let the drone handle machine learning, autonomous flight and image recognition. The body is also supposed to be water-resistant enough to fly in rain or snow.

Teal has been demonstrating a prototype for the past few weeks, so at the very least, we know this thing flies. But that’s also true of FPV racing drones, some of which cost a lot less than $1,300. The difference between those, and something that the rest of us can fly without crashing, is the software and stabilization.

Putting down $1,300 on an unproven company with an ambitious claim is a big ask. But if Teal and Matus can pull it off, it could be a game-changer for the drone industry.

Also, prepare to see far more, far faster crashes.

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