[CES 2017] Derrick Xiong, the man who wants to transport you with a drone
To meet Derrick Xiong, the young Chinese tech prodigy, is to look again at Luc Besson’s “5th Element”, less fiction. At 28, the co-founder of drone maker Ehang knows that, for the first time, he has a concrete vision of the future that can change the world. Born in Guangzhou, his company is now present in Beijing, Shanghai, but has also just opened a center in Düsseldorf “because all the major Chinese tech companies are there”, confides Derrick Xiong to Frenchweb. The company is also in Silicon Valley in San Francisco and was talked about at the last CES 2016.
When you meet Derrick Xiong, you must first insert yourself into the agenda of a young entrepreneur in a hurry who catches a cold in air-conditioned long-haul aircraft. “During my studies in China, I was selected by a study program in Singapore to take a course reserved for the best Chinese engineers,” he says. A few years later, he was at the head of Ehang, valued over $ 400 million and, with its co-founder, leads over 300 people.
A quadricopter controlled by an iPad application
In the consumer and professional drone markets, in particular with its “Ghost Drone”, Ehang is not afraid of competition from the French Parrot, nor from the Americans. They are certainly battling in common sectors (agriculture, surveillance, virtual reality, etc.) But with its flagship product, the Ehang 184, capable of transporting a passenger at 100km / h from one base to another controlled by an iPad application, Derrick Xiong estimates that he has a – slight lead… The autonomy is for the moment about twenty minutes but the engineers are working on extending the test to “go to one hour and connect San Francisco to San José “(see the demo in the interview below). It currently costs the price of a luxury car, around $ 300,000.
INTERVIEW (in English) with Derrick Xiong on the occasion of China Connect 2016 in Paris :
To finance its R&D, Ehang has already raised $ 52 million, notably from Microsoft, of which George Yan, the company’s former China marketing director, has become its co-founder. Does Derrick Xiong want to broadcast a new vision of the world in the same way as Tesla boss Elon Musk with SpaceX, Richard Branson with JetBlue? Jack Ma, the figure of Chinese tech, would he not find there “his” crazy project like the Anglo-Saxon tycons? Derrick Xiong smiles… and confirms it during the interview.
Derrick Xiong says it before everyone else; the future will not be that of flying cars, a myth which should finally make people forget the traffic jams in urban centers, in subways. “In ten, twenty, or thirty years … the change will be immense”, estimates the engineer. The time it takes for the old myth to turn into a whole new reality; that of the “autonomous ‘airplane drone’ for busy businessmen who can afford rapid and reliable transport”.
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Credits: Copyright China Connect 2016, Laure de Carayon, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Derrick Xiong. Drone 184, Ehang.