Highlighting Teal – the world’s fastest production drone with brains as well as brawn

Teal drone: streams vision back to a phone, tablet or VR headset in 720p (Credit: Teal Drones)

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A Utah-based company is launching what it claims is the world’s fastest production drone. Capable of 85 mph under favorable circumstances, the Teal is a powerful, lightweight quadcopter that streams vision at 720p and has a powerful onboard computer to run advanced applications that could eventually include machine learning algorithms.

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Teal is a quirky design that doesn’t neatly fit the camera drone or racing drone categories, although it can probably fulfill both those briefs at a pinch.

Its camera can film in 4K at 24fps, but it doesn’t hang below the drone on a gimbal, instead relying on electronic stabilization similar to what some of the Parrot drones use. So it can’t be angled downward.

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Likewise, it streams excellent quality video back to your phone, tablet or headset in 720p, but it’s way too heavy and expensive to really be considered a racer.

Its goals seem loftier. High speeds are the banner item, with a claimed 85 mph (137 km/h) top speed. To put that in context, DJI claims 45 mph out of Sport mode on its Phantom 4, and that feels pretty damn quick to me. Plenty of racing drones can beat that figure, but nothing we’re aware of that’s mass produced instead of custom built.

That top speed can only be reached with a high performance battery – and that battery will only give you 10 minutes of flight. A larger Endurance battery option gives you 20 minutes of flight, but slows the Teal down.

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The Teal’s GPS system could be another interesting feature. It uses standard GPS, with a +/- 1.5 meter (~5 ft) hover accuracy, but by the time it’s delivered it should also support Differential and Real Time Kinematic (RTK) positioning that can get accuracy down to just +/- 5 centimeters, or about 2 inches. And that’s without using a vision positioning system with its heavy additional cameras and ultrasound systems.

It won’t ship with its own controller. Teal can be flown using a phone or tablet app –presumably pretty poorly, as we’ve never been happy with the responsiveness of touch-screen flight controls. Thus, you’ll probably need to get yourself a decent hobby-grade transmitter to fly it in the sporty fashion it seems to be built for.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Teal, at least in the eyes of its creator, is the powerful onboard computer it’s packing: an Nvidia Jetson TX1. The TX1 is specifically designed to be an aerial deep learning computer, with the ability to process 4K vision in real time and do all sorts of cool stuff with it.

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At launch, Teal will ship with apps for basic flight, waypoint navigation, live video streaming, geofencing and the like. It’ll also have a live video tracking app that makes use of the TX1’s image processing capability to track and follow a subject visually.

But the TX1 has the potential for all sorts of apps to be developed. -For example, using machine learning to develop obstacle avoidance systems, or industrial applications such as automatic categorization and tracking of assets on a site. Teal will ship with a software development kit (SDK) to streamline the process of making this thing smarter and more useful.

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Set to ship by the end of the year, Teal is a fairly pricey package at US$1299. But it’s got some interesting high-end capabilities, and it’ll be interesting to see what applications programmers find for it.

Teal’s launch video is below. It requires a strong stomach.


Henry Sapiecha

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