Teal Drones founder and CEO George Matus and his team developed a high-performance reconnaissance drone that fits easily in a backpack and can help keep ground troops safe as a tool that can look around corners, or over the next hill, in battle conditions.

Beside sharing a Monday announcement that Utah-based Teal has just secured a second development contract with the U.S. Army, Matus is trying to get his Golden Eagle drones into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers currently battling Russian invasion forces in the independent Eastern European country.

He’s worried that if Ukrainian resistance fighters are using any of the widely available drones made by China-based market leader DJI to do battlefield reconnaissance, those aircraft could be exposing vital tactical information to the Russian army.

“Drones in this category can be one of the most impactful technologies during a war,” Matus told Fox Business news Monday morning. “And there’s a huge need for drones right now for reconnaissance purposes.

“But the Chinese DJI drones that have monopolized the industry over the last decade just can’t be trusted to be used by allies. They actually have a backdoor that the Russians can use to track any DJI drones in the airspace, which is really dangerous in a situation like this when the Ukrainians use them.”

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In a Deseret News interview Monday, Matus said he and his team have been speaking with numerous groups in Ukraine, as well as U.S. European allies, to get the U.S.-designed and manufactured Teal Golden Eagle drones into the hands of Ukrainian troops as fast as possible.

“Teal is one of the only companies in the world that is able to provide that, at scale, now with its technology, manufacturing and resources,” Matus said. “And I have no doubt that the technology will help save a lot of lives.”

Teal Drones developed the highly advanced Golden Eagle reconnaissance drone as part of a U.S. Defense Department development program. Now, the company is working to get Golden Eagles into the hands of Ukrainian troops fighting Russian invasion forces. | Teal Drones

The U.S. Department of Defense has long been aware of security concerns when it comes to foreign-made drones and last year warned that DJI drones “pose potential threats to national security.” In 2018, the Defense Department banned use of all commercial, off-the-shelf drones, regardless of manufacturer due to “cybersecurity concerns.”

On Monday, Teal announced that it was selected as one of a very small group of manufacturers to participate in the second tranche of a U.S. Army prototype development program, which could lead to a multimillion dollar procurement contract for a new, high-performance battlefield reconnaissance drone.

“The rigorous technical requirements and program objectives of (Short Range Reconnaissance Tranche 2) dramatically narrowed the field from over three dozen drone manufacturers to just a handful that were selected by the Army to move forward with the program,” Matus said in a statement. “We believe this puts us among the most elite drone manufacturers in the world and, consequently, is a significant recognition of our capabilities.

“The $1.5 million prototype contract we were awarded ... reinforces the sophistication and technical expertise of our entire Teal team. We look forward to developing the Army’s next-generation small unmanned aerial system to improve the safety and lethality of our warfighters.”

Matus founded Teal Drones in 2014 when he was 16 years old, but his company has since developed and launched multiple, high-performance drone models and had attracted over $20 million in venture backing before being acquired by Red Cat Holdings in an all-stock acquisition deal last year.

In the first tranche of the Defense Department/U.S. Army drone prototype program, Teal developed the Golden Eagle, a rugged, fast and portable advanced drone that was developed over the course of an 18-month innovation and testing contract. The Golden Eagle was one of five vehicles developed by companies in the initial tranche approved for use by all branches of the Defense Department as well as other federal agencies.

The Golden Eagle is packed with high-tech capabilities, including 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 has recently expanded its Utah manufacturing capacity and now has a 20,000-square-foot facility and nearby testing area.

Matus said Teal will be designing its next-generation reconnaissance drone from the ground up, working to hit Defense Department performance and technology benchmarks that include high levels of autonomous operation capabilities, nighttime obstacle avoidance systems and more.

In 2021, Teal joined a quartet of independently operating innovation companies owned by publicly traded Red Cat, all doing work in the fast-advancing drone and drone-related technology sector. Matus said the acquisition by Red Cat led to immediate benefits, including a new $60 million investment deal.

Matus said while investment in drone innovation companies was a hot venture capital target five or six years ago, the industry is still maturing but nearing a point where drones will become a much bigger, and integrated, facet of the world outside military applications.

“Drone technology is just now hitting important inflection points and regulatory functions are coming into focus,” Matus said. “Earlier predictions had it happening sooner, but we are still on a trajectory where drones will be integrated into everyday lives.”