UAV

US- and China-based Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) startup EHANG announced today that it has raised US$42 million from a Series B funding round led by GP Capital.

Participating investors include returning backers GGV Capital, ZhenFundPreAngelLeBox Capital, and new investor ShenZhen Oriental Fortune Capital (OFC).

According to an official statement, this investment puts the valuation of EHANG at a hundred times higher than when it was first established 16 months ago.

The company will also bring on board four senior executives who have worked at Fortune Global 500 companies, as well as hi-tech companies including 21Vianet, Lenovo and Microsoft.

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Shang-Wen Hsiao, the former President and CFO of 21Vianet, will join as EHANG’s CFO and Co-founder; Wei Qi, the former Vice President of Lenovo Group, will take the role of Senior Vice President of Operations and Co-founder.

Yijun Wang, the former Sales Director of Corporate and Channel Department of Microsoft China, will assume the office of EHANG’s Vice President of Sales, and finally, Richard Liu, the former Vice President of Finance of 21Vianet, will serve as EHANG’s Vice President of Finance.

Expansion plans and penetrating new markets

With this new influx of funds, it plans to “further facilitate the product and business development of EHANG in the global consumer and commercial UAV market, accelerate talent recruitment and build a UAV ecosystem based on its innovated [SIC] smart app-controlled experience to map the future of the intelligent aerial mobile platform.”

EHANG’s drones are controlled using a smartphone. Users first need to connect their phones to the ‘G-box’ via a Bluetooth connection which will send out wireless radio waves to the drone, allowing a maximum communication distance of 1,000 metres.

The startup, which crowdfunded the development of the Ghost Drone through Indiegogo — raising a total of US$849,906 to date (784 per cent of its original goal) — secured US$10 million in Series A funding at the end of last year from GGV Capital, PreAngel, ZhenFund and LeBox Capital.

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It plans to bring its technology to traditional industries such as agriculture and forestry, geographic mapping, disaster relief and express logistics.

“We truly believe that the smart control experience of their drones can be more widely applied across market sectors and that the company can make a revolutionary breakthrough in UAV technologies,” said GP Capital representative Haoxiang Hou.t.

The statement cites a 2015 Civil UAV Market Report released by the research institute EVTank, which says that civil drones accounted for 96 per cent of the whole UAV market in 2014. It also forecasts that the global sales volume of civil drones will increase by 50 per cent in 2015, and by 2020 the market scale will reach US$25.9 billion with 4.33 million units of drones being sold.

“We are bullish about the prospects and growth of UAV development globally and are very pleased to see EHANG gain the support of more industry and financial partners,” said Jenny Lee, Managing Partner of GGV Capital.

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“Due to the solid and fast growth of EHANG, its valuation has increased 40-fold from when Nick Yang of Lebox Capital and I invested in the second angel round last year,” said Xiaoping Xu, the Founder of ZhenFund.

EHANG plans to release its next-generation product by the end of this year.