China has launched the world’s first artificial intelligence-equipped drone carrier. This is an unmanned maritime mothership that can conduct maritime research, gather information, and even repel enemy drones.
The autonomous vessel, known as Zhu Haiyun, will launch in Guangzhou on May 18 and will sail at a top speed of 18 knots. Most of the 88.5 meter long ships are open decks for storing, launching and recovering in-flight drones.
It is also equipped with launch and recovery equipment for aquatic drones. In addition, ship drones have been reported to be able to form networks to monitor targets. Its AI operating system allows it to carry 50 flying, water and underwater drones that can be activated and recovered autonomously.
Construction of the ship began in July 2021 and all core components such as power, propulsion, research and operations support systems, and custom AI systems were independently researched and developed in China. The ship has completed the sea trial and will be delivered by the end of the year.
The vessel is not designed to navigate a crowded port autonomously, but instead sails remotely until it reaches the open ocean. At that point, the autonomous system takes control and performs the programmed mission.
According to China’s National Science and Technology Daily, the ship will be deployed to carry out marine science research and observations and will play a variety of roles in marine disaster prevention and mitigation, environmental monitoring, and maintenance of offshore wind farms.
Dake Chen, director of the Cantonese Institute for Southern Marine Science and Engineering, who owns the ship, told the media: Accurate mapping, monitoring of the marine environment, and search and rescue of the ocean. “
The Nakafune Huangpu Shipyard, which built the ship, is equipped with a variety of additional observation equipment that can be “batch-deployed in the target area and run a task-oriented adaptive network to achieve a 3D view of a specific target.” I said.
Ships also have strong military power.
“The most direct benefit of PLA is the increased knowledge of the relevant body of water through the collection of data by UUVs. [unmanned underwater vehicles].. This will give PLA Navy submarines greater confidence and effectiveness in these areas, “said Timothy Heath, senior security analyst at Rand Corporation, based in the United States.
Heath said the ship is vulnerable to sabotage and the AI on board can make inappropriate decisions without human guidance.
Zhou Chen Ming, a researcher at the former Wang Military Science and Technology Institute in Beijing, disagrees. He said ships could be deployed in relatively stable waters near the coast at best, where most wars and conflicts would not occur.
Zhou emphasized that the ship’s greatest contribution is to replace the ever-increasing labor costs of economic or commercial activities along the waters near China. Still, China is known to be testing unmanned drone motherships for combat use.
Yunzhou Tech, China’s first and most successful autonomous shipping company, is working on a drone with six small surface drones to attack the surface of enemy ships. The six drones reportedly work together to surround enemy ships and pursue aggressive operations.
Yunzhou Tech is also working on herd technology aimed at allowing multiple drones to “cooperate and confront” enemy ships and “siege and expel” enemy ships. Drones are intended to share sensor data, track target vessels at high speeds, intercept them, and “purge” invading vessels, allowing them to make autonomous decisions as a group.
For years, the company has been designing software for coordinating drone swarms for private purposes, and its “confrontation mode” is under development.
Last year, China tested a catamaran drone aircraft carrier designed to launch and recover small swarms of aerial drones and unleash electronic attack on enemy ships.
Catamaran can also launch swarm attacks on land or air defense targets, making more traditional manned abilities more effective. This concept could be scaled up using Zhu Hai Yun’s design philosophy.
The development of China’s maritime drone crowd capacity may be part of an effort to defeat Taiwan’s defensive “porcupine” strategy, which involves having many small assets that are very viable and deadly on the battlefield.
These drones may be equipped with laser mesh technology. This allows individual drones to communicate with all other drones in the herd using laser-based data links, giving the herd the same number of “eyes” as the drone.
Attacks by such swarms may force Taiwan to activate its air defense and coastal missile battery radar prematurely, spending a limited inventory of missiles and shells.
As a result, the location of these defensive positions will be revealed, the available firepower will be significantly reduced, due to suicide drones in the herd, or high-end manned assets such as the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter and H-20. It is vulnerable to subsequent attacks. Stealth bomber.