China’s EHang, which is developing a passenger drone, claims it will become profitable within the next two years, its co-founder told CNBC.
EHang drew worldwide attention last year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it showcased a drone that has the capacity to carry a human passenger over short-to-medium distances.
The electricity-powered drone, called EHang 184, can carry up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of weight for 25 minutes. It has an average cruising speed of 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) and has a ceiling of 3,000 meters above sea level.
The vehicle is being considered as a mode of transport for the future in places like Dubai.
“This EHang 184 product is so unique that we need to put a lot of money in it, and we need to put a lot of engineers,” Derrick Xiong, co-founder at EHang, told CNBC at the sidelines of the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, China. “We do not make a single profit from that product yet, but all the other product lines are making a profit.”
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, started off as cheaper, safer alternatives for manned military aircraft. But their use has broadened. Compact, personal drones that are fitted with cameras have become popular for aerial photography.
The drone market is expected to generate more than $11.2 billion in revenue by 2020, according to a February prediction from research firm Gartner.
EHang is trying to tap into more commercial applications for drones, according to Xiong. “This year, we (shifted) a lot of the focus from the consumer level to the application, to explore more applications for drones,” he said.
In October, EHang said it will design and build an intelligent drone monitoring and command & control center for the Shaoguan government to aid in responding to emergencies. Shaoguan is a city in northern Guangdong province in the mainland.