China has launched a ship that can sail the seas without any crew. The ship can transport dozens of drones.
The ship, named “Zhu Hai Yun”, uses artificial intelligence to navigate independently.
Beijing claims it is a “maritime research tool”. However, experts suspect that it can also be used as a military ship.
China has launched the world’s first ship capable of autonomous navigation in open waters using artificial intelligence. Beijing has officially designated it as a marine research instrument. However, some experts have said that the ship could also be used as a military vessel.
The ship, Zhu Hai Yun, is about 88 meters long, 13 meters wide and 6 meters deep and can carry dozens of air, sea and submersible drones equipped with various surveillance devices, according to the ship’s manufacturer CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipping Co”.
The company describes the ship as “groundbreaking” and “the world’s first standalone AI-controlled mothership.”
China could also use robotic ships for the military
“Probably the biggest benefit for China is data collection,” says Matthew Funaiole, research associate for the China Power Project at the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) in Washington. “From a purely scientific point of view, Chinese drones could contribute to civil protection, environmental monitoring and the like – that’s how China sells it.”
However, the drone mothership could also be used by China’s military to gather intelligence in the disputed South China Sea, to which several countries have territorial claims.
In recent years, China has increasingly asserted its claims to the sea and further strengthened its military position. “When dealing with China, we rarely have a clear view of its intentions. But as we saw with its activities in the South China Sea, scientific ventures can be a precursor or otherwise support military objectives,” says Matthew Funaiole.
“Technology, especially systems for gathering information, often has a dual purpose. Data China collects from autonomous systems could help with surveillance and area detection, assist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) submarines with navigation, enhance China’s ASW (anti-submarine warfare) capabilities, and so on further.”
The ship was first unveiled in May but is expected to be delivered by the end of 2022 once trials are complete, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper.
Autonomous systems could be the “future of warfare”.
The ship uses the world’s first AI system called Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System, developed by Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory, according to the South China Morning Post. The ship will be remotely piloted and can cruise at a top speed of about 20 miles per hour, according to the shipbuilder. This corresponds to a good 32 km/h.
Chen Dake, the lab’s director, told state-run Science and Technology Daily in 2021 that the ship is a new “marine species” that will revolutionize ocean observation. China is already the world’s largest shipbuilder and could become a ‘major ocean power’.
Although the capabilities of this ship are not yet known, armies around the world are increasingly focusing on the development of drones and self-contained vehicles. Funaiole pointed out that China has invested significant resources in various areas such as drones and autonomous vehicles to strengthen its naval position. “It’s going to be part of the future of warfare,” he said.
This text was translated from English by Lisa Ramos-Doce. You can find the original here.
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