The Teal 2 drone has been designed as a military drone, but it’s only recently that it seriously solidified its stance as a military powerhouse. That’s because just this month, Red Cat (which is the parent company of Teal) announced that it had received approval for its Teal 2 drone to be added to the Blue UAS Cleared List.
The Blue UAS clearance is bestowed by the Department of Defense, and it’s a highly-select list of drones that the DoD has deemed approved (there are fewer than 20 drones in total with such designation). To make the DoD Blue UAS Cleared List, drones have to be NDAA-compliant, validated as cyber-secure and safe to fly. Of course, they also have to actually be available for government purchase and operation.
This is not Red Cat’s first rodeo on the Blue UAS Cleared List. Another older drone made by Teal, the Teal Golden Eagle, also has Blue UAS clearance.
Why is Blue UAS clearance such a big deal?
The Blue UAS program is an initiative that sits within the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). That arm of the DoD is focused on new tech, like drones, and it decides if drones meet its safety standards.
While government agencies aren’t limited to flying only Blue UAS Cleared drones, having the Blue UAS seal of approval does mean the drones are otherwise crystal clear to legally fly. Any Department of Defense organization is able to purchase other non-Blue UAS drones as long as they are certified as compliant by completing their own internal administration requirement. Having the Blue UAS stamp provides that basic verification.
Even still, Blue UAS clearance is relevant for drone industry players who aren’t necessarily involved in the military. Many private, commercial contracts also stipulate that the drones operating for them must also be DoD compliant.
“With this certification, all our customers – military, government and commercial – can be confident that the Teal 2 meets the highest standards for cybersecurity, safety and operation,” Teal Founder and CEO George Matus said in a prepared statement.
And for Teal, this means the company is set to grow big.
“We can now fill orders that were contingent on certification, and in addition to orders from the U.S. government, we know that governments of allied nations are also more likely to purchase Blue UAS-approved drones,” Matus said.
And the company is already fulfilling big orders. Since its launch, Teal has scored some big name customers including Civil Air Patrol’s North Carolina Wing (NCWG), which in May 2023 ordered 10 Teal 2 drones to aid NCWG in providing emergency assistance. And one of Teal’s earliest customers is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has ordered more than 50 units of the Teal 2 to provide supplemental airborne reconnaissance, surveillance and tracking capability, enhancing situational awareness for U.S. field commanders and agents.
Teal also lands $1.2 million
And that’s not all for Teal’s military ambitions. At the end of June, Teal announced that it had landed an additional $1.2 million. That money is set to go toward developing a new sUAS prototype for the U.S. Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) program. That expands Teal’s first awarded prototype contract for the SRR Tranche 2 program, which it received in March 2022.
Teal is one of three vendors competing in the Army’s Tranche 2 program — all of which will complete a series of testing and demonstration milestones. Of those three, one “winner” will be selected to produce a rucksack-portable sUAS for Army platoons 20 to 50 soldiers.
“A future SRR production contract is a major opportunity for any company selected, and Teal is excited to give the warfighter the best we have,” Matus said. “I’m confident the SRR prototype we’re developing will meet and exceed the Army’s requirements.”
What to know about the Teal 2 drone
The Teal 2 drone is a relatively new product, having only officially launched in April 2023. Its standout feature is the fact that it is designed for nighttime operations (which is critical for many military applications, which often happen at night).
Those nighttime operations are made possible thanks to the onboard Hadron 640R sensor, made by Teledyne FLIR, which offers high-resolution thermal imaging in a small package ideal for placement on a drone.
The news of Red Cat’s Blue UAS clearance for the Teal 2 drone comes not long after the company announced another big win for the drone’s computer-vision technology. That’s because, this month Red Cat took a big step in its partnership with artificial intelligence and computer-vision partnership with Athena AI. As part of the collaboration, Athena recently completed a successful demonstration of target recognition and battle tracking during a nighttime test flight as recorded with the Teal 2’s thermal imaging sensor.
Under the partnership, Athena is licensing its proprietary computer-vision architecture to Red Cat. That tech, (hich allows high-speed tracking of objects and, at slower speeds, in-depth data exploitation could in theory be used to identify weapons, humans and other targets at night, as well as Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) markers, such as Cyalume HALOs and IR beacons.
“This combination of a nighttime sUAS with live-vehicle metadata allows for real-time situational awareness to support battle tracking, common operational picture (COP) at higher echelons of command, and accurate targeting,” said Athena CEO Stephen Bornstein.