October 17, 2017

Interview with Ewatt's Founder Zhao Guocheng


   Zhao Guocheng is grasping a freshly ground cup of coffee. He stirs the coffee a few times, then takes a big gulp. He sits opposite of me, in a neat, iron post shirt, with light blue ripped jeans. Mr. Zhao is a gentle and stable man. If you were to encounter him on the streets, you may see him as another middle-aged man, rather than the high-tech enterprise President of UAV technology, Ewatt Aerospace or new Chairman of the Board.

  In the office before the interview, he had just finished a road trip in Tibet for the second time. Departing from Chengdu, he alone drove everyday from morning until late into the evening, five days a week. Today, the journey to Tibet, transformed his thinking to another level-how to be a leader of the business world. Corporate affairs, as well as social functions increase day by day in meetings and activities, and it has made him too busy to stay put. At the headquarters he is spending less and less time in Wuhan.

Thinking outside the box

 Unlike  most entrepreneurs, Zhao Guocheng and his partners chose a quite high financial and technical industry: industrial drones. He threw himself into this area of motivation. Having been widely reported in the media in the winter of 2008, weather in the South was hit with extreme bitter cold and heavy snow. The hardest hit areas were test power supply networks. Zhao Guocheng witnessed the power line inspection workers having to endure very cold and dangerous mountain terrain and  bare-handed climbs on tower inspections. Thinking of ways to remove these dangerous conditions for workers, he began to think only in the application of military unmanned aerial vehicles and introduced them to the power supply industries, introducing more intelligent ways to reduce and replace manual inspections.

After two years of research, Zhao Guocheng repeated projects on unmanned aeriel vehicles and commercial feasibility for industrial use. Once and for all, he finally confirmed that this is the best effort and put plans in place.
 In the beginning of 2010, he set up Ewatt.  I questioned him, " It is said that unmanned aeriel vehicles are a military institution and that private enterprises cant do this; some say the forefront of high-tech products are deep in North Canton, and works in Wuhan have no advantages. Scientific research personnel and spare parts supply requirements are too difficult to meet some suspected markets, others worry of the users needs." Zhao Guocheng says " At the start no one had any military or civilian experience in the field, no one specializes in domestic industrial drones. But I am sure the drones in industrial and commercial fields will increase, not from scratch, but it will explode. "

 Pioneering of course is not easy. At that time, Ewatt faces a new niche, there is no standard available for reference, even some key components only to cars, robots and other industries to find.

Ewatt's founding team has extensive collection of industry pain points, practical understanding of user needs and providing personalized products and solutions for different users and eventually built up a good reputation in the field, and formed UAV applications in other areas of the demonstration effect. At present, Ewatt UAV products has been used in news, film, agriculture, forestry, plant protection, police, fire, and more than 10 areas such as surveying, mapping and energy inspection.

It was seemingly difficult to start 7 years ago, so from the onset, Ewatt established the leading position in the industry. The position has been maintained to this very day. From the first period alone, to follow, with accurate marketing position, strong technical strength and soundness of business expansion, in the field of commercial UAV, Ewatt set many Chinese first: The very first national torch program award, the first approved isolation space and independent commercial UAV flight training base, the first drone pilot training recongised by the Civil Aviation Authority institutions, the first "international" level achievements, China's first sales in one billion yuan of industrial UAV enterprises, first to the new Board to the UAV industry company.

Seven years of focus

On June 23, 2017  the announced completion of 130 million RMB series B round of funding was made, the largest financing in the Chinese UAV industry in 2017. Prior to this, Ewatt reached 66.5 million in series A financing. The lead investor of this round was Chaoyong Wang, who has an extensive Wall Street background and track record of success founding the China Equity Group, one of the earliest and largest PE/VC firms in China.

“Much of the funds from this latest round of financing will be used for the construction of a new UAV production base to expand the domestic market share,” stated Guocheng Zhao, President of Ewatt Technology. “The remaining funds will be invested in new product development, big data managing platform development, and the expansion of our flight services business to further promote product development and commercial market expansion for us in the civilian market. Ewatt has grown from a single UAV product all the way to seven series, resulting in more than ten products currently available.” stated Chaoyong Wang, “EWATT is not limited to UAV manufacturing, it is upgrading to be a more comprehensive entity of strong innovation and technology enterprises with things like industry application, flight services, intelligent storage management, and beyond."

Like Chaoyong Wang said, Ewatt no has fully mastered the unmanned six core technologies in the field of design--full range of UAV technology, composite molding technology, dynamic system development technology, effective application of load, flight test technology and electronic flight control technology.

"The engine and flight control systems, visual obstacle avoidance system, the core part, Ewatt, with independent intellectual property rights, achieve independent development and production. And its not just a drone manufacturer, our founder and investements are holding more than ten associations of enterprises, have completed commercial UAV research and development, production, sales, training and service of the whole industrial chain layout. " Zhao Guocheng said.

Valuable in the face of consumer entertainment drones, Ewatt was not attracted by the temptations and has stayed focused on areas of industrial drones. Statistics show that currently about 400 civilian drone enterprises, of which about 30% are manufacturing companies, about 50% are industry service companies and 20% are institutes for scientific research but with a certain amount of UAV enterprises are the main consumer market.

In parallel with the paid expansion of the domestic consumer market for unmanned, began nearly two years out of this enterprise in the field of large-scale layoffs, cut projects, and even the news, including some former star enterprises. Industrial grade UAV market is a different story. The area of farming, forestry, plant protection, power energy inspection has shown strong market demandm, such as security, disaster relief, logistics, evironmental protection and other fields can be seen from figure for UAV applications. Industrial grade UAV has become Denver's new blue ocean of capital, throughout the first half of 2017, UAV industry financing of 6 companies are industrial grade UAV.

Zhao Guocheng said: "Entertainment does have a very large market of cake, but we think that unmanned aerial vehicles widely used in industry, and contribute more to society, creating greature value, impact could be more far-reaching."

The high ground, building a world class enterprise

Shenzhen high-tech fair organised by the end of 2015, The International Association For Unmanned Aerial Systems. Van Blijenburgh met Zhao Guocheng and said the speed of China's unmanned aerial vehicle industry is  wonder and admiration. "He said whether it is technical or size, China has led the world in unmanned aerial vehicles."

Also foreign media recently said,  despite China's image as an imitator, in some areas, Chinese companies are becoming the object of learning--unmanned aerial vehicle industry is one. The paper pointed out, some unmanned aerial vehicle businesses in the us, have begun to copy China.

Institutions in the United States released a commercial UAV rank this year, Ewatt ranked the world's third, the first two  Xinjiang, China and then United States 3DR. " Ewatt can now proudly say, both in terms of management, deployment, pilot, standards of construction, the size of the business, has come third in the world. Ewatt is unique. "

For 7 years, Ewatt remains its talent in areas of high investment. Ewatt sets up international teams, to create international framework of enterprises. Ewatt compensates for lack of high-end technology research capabilities. Ewatt spared no expense introducing international talents and technologies, setting up subsidaries in the United States and Hong Kong, Ewatt also set up research and development centers in Europe, for the formation of an international research team made up of top talent. In 2016, with revenue of 17.6 million Yuan, it ranked first in domestic drones, the new enterprise.

Zhao Guocheng  believes that future UAVs, especially industrial UAV development, from the pursuit of stability in the past "aircraft thinking " will come to the pursuit of intelligent "robots are thinking" .

Around the industrial drone, "We are now reporting more than 500 patents, to the end of the year will exceed 800. The industrial enterprises all over the world, should be the most. "

The end of 2017, after the caidian district, Wuhan City, Lake, Ewatt is completed and will put into use 40,000 Chinese first civil unmanned aerial vehicles as the leading products of the aviation industrial park.

Zhao Guocheng said Ewatt in the future will revolve around "drone +", to create a drone-oriented industry cluster to lead the world-class enterprise competitiveness in the international market.

Ewatt is pursuing "drone +" strategy in addition to the unmanned machine research and development, design, production, includes unmanned flights, testing, training, and maintenance; unmanned airborne equipment; shared data platform for unmanned (monitoring, sharing, service cloud).

Talk about confidence in the future! Zhao Guocheng said " the rise of China in the field of artificial intelligence will be a world-class giant with the UAV industry and artificial intelligence. We are most looking forward to the birth of giant fields. Ewatt's eyes are always aimed at the first class. We have sufficient stock of talent and technology, with also experiencing a double screening of product and capital markets; we have suitable business environment for enterprises bigger and stronger, having a high growth market, active government with effective marketing, this is the opportunity of the times. "

(Nie Ping Wang Kunzuo Yuan Zhe)
(Editors:Guan Xiyan)
(Translator: Britt Stinson)