Ehang, the company behind Ghost, is announcing it has raised $10 million in new funding to expand its teams in China and Silicon Valley and to help it manufacture more units.
The Ghost drone is a consumer-grade, unmanned aerial vehicle that is controlled through its companion smartphone app and can be equipped with a GoPro camera for recreational video-recording (the camera and gimbal are sold as add-ons). At the moment, the video footage is stored by GoPro, locally and through its cloud-based storage, although Ehang plans on eventually making more options available for accessing the footage. The company is more focused on the aircraft’s technology than on video and camera technology, which is why it’s working with GoPro.
The company’s choice in using a smartphone app as a controller instead of a dedicated hardware remote control is also a reflection of how consumer-friendly and intuitive it wants its product to be. The app has very clear buttons for every function, and users can control the aircraft simply by tilting their smartphones in the direction they’d like it to go.
The drone can also be set to automatically follow its owner (or rather, its owner’s smartphone), which can be a fun and useful capability during sporting events (hiking, skiing, etc.) or during events like festivals. This feature can also be found in Berkeley, Calif.-based 3D Robotics’ drones.
Ehang has already started shipping some of its Indiegogo backers’ units and will finish shipping them all during the month of January. In addition to being available on the company’s website, Ghost will also become available for purchase from online retailers such as Amazon and eBay starting shortly after the company has shipped to all Indiegogo backers, Ehang cofounder Derrick Xiong told VentureBeat. Brick-and-mortar retail will be the third step in the company’s distribution strategy.
The drone is currently priced between $400 and $1,500, depending on the bundle and accessories included.
Despite having barely gotten its first version out, Ehang is already planning on releasing a second iteration sometime in 2015, although Xiong didn’t have an exact timeline to share.
GGV Capital led this funding round, with additional participation from Xiaoping Xu, Nick Yang, and PreAngel, a fund focused on early stage startups.
Ehang was founded in 2014 by James Hu, Derrick Xiong, and Michael Yang, and is based in China and Silicon Valley.