(Forbes) – Frank Wang Tao has never been arrested. He pays his taxes on time. And he rarely drinks. But on the eve of a January sit-down with FORBES–his first public interview this year with a Western publication–the Chinese national who happens to be the world’s first drone billionaire found himself on the wrong end of American authorities.
A U.S. government intelligence employee in Washington, D.C., some 8,000 miles away from Wang’s perch in Shenzhen, had had a little too much to drink and took a friend’s four-propeller drone out for a spin in the wee hours. Inexperienced, he lost the aircraft in the dark and, after a brief search, called off his drunken hunt. By dawn that 1-foot-by-1-foot whirlybird was a global news story and subject of a Secret Service investigation–after crash-landing on the White House lawn.
Wang built that robot. He also created the one that a protester used last month to land a bottle of radioactive waste on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office and developed the one a smuggler used to sneak drugs, a mobile phone and weapons into a prison courtyard outside of London in March. The idea of people using your product to break laws and social boundaries would give most CEOs nightmares, but the inconspicuous mastermind behind the world’s drone revolution just shakes it off.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” shrugs the 34-year-old founder of Dajiang Innovation Technology Co. (DJI), which accounts for 70% of the consumer drone market, according to Frost & Sullivan. His company spent the morning developing a software update it blasted out to all its drones, prohibiting them from flying inside a 15.5-mile-radius centered on downtown Washington, D.C. “It’s a benign thing.”