The Strategist

Chinese drone taxi maker aims to raise $ 100 mln on Nasdaq

11/05/2019 - 07:18

EHang startup has become the first Chinese company to receive permission from the country's authorities to organize unmanned air passenger traffic. How highly will American investors rate this achievement?

Alex Butterfield
Alex Butterfield
Chinese company EHang, which plans to launch the first unmanned aerial taxi service, on Thursday October 31 notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of its intention to place $ 100 million depositary receipts on the Nasdaq exchange.

In January, EHang became the first company to receive permission from the Chinese aviation authorities to create an unmanned aerial taxi service. The first route is to cross the river in the "home" city of EHang Guangzhou. The route will be used by a double autonomous passenger vehicle with 16 airscrews called EHang 216. The company hopes to cover other major cities of China, where catastrophic traffic jams make the prospect of air transportation extremely attractive, as well as expand internationally.

EHang manufactures passenger vehicles, but it also makes money by staging light shows using many small drones and selling drone-based surveillance systems. According to Derrick Xiong, co-founder of the company and its marketing director, the light shows allowed EHang to gain valuable experience, which the company uses to improve the software needed to coordinate the network of passenger vehicles. 

In addition to the air taxi service, EHang has customers in China who want to use passenger drones for visiting picturesque places. Companies from Norway are interested in drones as a method of transporting workers and supplies to offshore oil platforms, the manager added.

Another market is the urgent delivery of organs for transplantation. In 2016, United Therapeutics, a US biotech company, announced it would order up to the first 1000 EHang passenger drones, single EHang 184s, to transport artificial lungs and other organs of its own design.

United Therapeutics and its subsidiary Lung Biotechnology invested $ 17 million in EHang in exchange for 2.9 million preferred shares, follows from the F-1 form submitted by EHang. The company has already delivered 38 passenger drones to customers and is processing 28 more orders.

EHang reported a loss of $ 5.5 million for the first six months of 2019, which is 42% more than for the same period in 2018, with revenue of $ 4.7 million - 15.6% less than a year earlier. The growth of the business of transporting passengers and cargo on drones was accompanied by a decrease in sales in the field of light shows and surveillance systems, the company explained. In total, the firm attracted $ 52 million of venture financing from funds, including GGV Capital and ZhenFund.