China launches world-first AI-controlled mothership to release drones

The massive new Zhu Hai Yun autonomous vessel made in China can deploy over fifty unmanned vehicles of various kinds for research.

Published Tue, May 24 2022 6:36 AM CDT   |   Updated Mon, Jun 13 2022 10:31 PM CDT

The world's first unmanned seaborne drone carrier was unveiled and launched by China on May 18th, 2022.

The ship is named the Zhu Hai Yun, and construction for it began in the Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard in Guangzhou, China, in July 2021. The vessel is 88.5 meters (290 feet) long, 14 meters (46 feet) wide, weighs 2,000 tonnes, and can travel with a top speed of 18 knots (20.7 miles per hour, 33.3 kilometers per hour).

The ship can carry over fifty autonomous systems, "including unmanned boats, drones and underwater vehicles," according to Dake Chen, the director of the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory. The ship and its onboard drone systems will be used to undertake marine scientific research and ocean observation.

The vessel is equipped to deploy all of these unmanned systems and control and communicate with them remotely. A command system allows the ship to achieve collaborative operation between the unmanned systems at its disposal. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the ship also reportedly has the "military capability to 'intercept and expel invasive targets.'"

"The Intelligent, unmanned ship is a beautiful new 'marine species' that will bring revolutionary changes for ocean observation," said Professor Dake Chen of the Chinese Academy of Science's School of Oceanography.

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