According to a article published in Business Insider, China launched the world’s first maritime drone carrier capable of autonomous operation last week. More than 50 autonomous airborne, surface and underground vehicles will be transported, launched, recovered and coordinated by the 290ft vessel.
Vessel, Zhu Hai Yunis being built in Guangzhou by Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard, a subsidiary of China’s largest shipbuilding company, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, and is expected to be completed in July 2021.
Although Beijing has officially designated it as a marine research vessel, some analysts believe it has the potential to be deployed as a military vessel.
According to the shipbuilder, CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipping Co., the autonomous vessel, the Zhu Hai Yun, is approximately 290 feet long, 45 feet wide and 20 feet deep and can carry dozens of aerial, marine and underwater drones equipped with various observation equipment.
It is described as an “epoch-making” ship and the “world’s first unmanned intelligent system mothership”.
It is the first of its kind, an autonomous autonomous platform capable of remote control and autonomous navigation on the high seas. The drone carrier will be a valuable instrument for the study and maritime scientific monitoring of the country.
The mothership of the intelligent unmanned system The marine drone carrier, weighing 2000 tons, can cruise at 13 knots (24 km/h) and has a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h). The ship can deploy its own boats, submarines and aircraft, communicate with them and perform coordinated operations, such as task-based adaptive networking to obtain three-dimensional images of specified targets.
The Zhu Hai Yun has a large deck that can accommodate dozens of aerial, marine and unmanned underground devices equipped with various observation equipment. To acquire a three-dimensional image of specified targets, these devices can be deployed in batches to the target sea region and perform task-oriented adaptive networking.
China hopes that with the latest launch, artificial intelligence and unmanned operations will improve its maritime surveillance capabilities more cheaply and efficiently than manned operations. After completing sea trials, the carrier will be delivered by the end of 2022.
On the other hand, the Chinese military could use the mother drone to gather intelligence in the disputed South China Sea, over which many nations have rival territorial claims.
China has recently asserted increasingly strong maritime sovereignty and increased its military presence.
According to the same Business Insider article, the ship uses the world’s first artificial intelligence system, the Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System, built by the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory.
According to the builders, the ship can cruise at a maximum speed of 18 knots, or about 20 miles per hour.
In 2021, Chen Dake, the lab’s director, told the state-run Science and Technology Daily that the ship is a new “marine species” that will revolutionize ocean monitoring. China is currently the largest shipbuilder in the world and aspires to be a “great maritime power”.
Although the capabilities and applications of this vessel are unknown, militaries around the world are increasingly focusing on building drones and autonomous vehicles.
A researcher also said China has committed significant funds to many unmanned platforms, including drones and autonomous vehicles, to bolster the navy’s position.
China is working hard to avoid underwater accidents with Zhu Hai Yun at its disposal. Because the drone carrier is equipped with various sensors, it can provide a more accurate view of the seabed topography, which can be useful during a fight. In such a case, observing the launch of Zhu Hai Yun from the perspective of marine research would be insufficient, as it would not see the ship’s suitability for military use. Such progress has been made by China as it develops its AI skills to build autonomous surface vehicles for maritime security, manage shipping routes and protect marine resources for itself.