‘A new marine species’: China unveils world-first drone carrier with AI system and fleet of autonomous vessels

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China launches drone carrier vessel designed to carry ‘dozens’ of autonomous vehicles (Southern Ocean Laboratory)
China launches drone carrier vessel designed to carry ‘dozens’ of autonomous vehicles (Southern Ocean Laboratory)

China has reportedly launched a drone carrier with a one-of-a-kind artificial intelligence system that contains dozens of autonomous drones, ships and submersibles to conduct marine research and observation.

The vessel – 88m long, 14m wide and 6m deep – can be controlled remotely or navigate autonomously in open water, as well as form a network to observe targets and play a role in maintaining maritime security, reported the South China Morning Post.

It is expected to help in marine disaster prevention, monitoring the marine environment and offshore wind farm maintenance, according to China’s Science and Technology Daily.

The vessel, named Zhu Hai Yun, has a world-first AI system called the Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System (IMOSOS), developed by the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), also known as the “Southern Ocean Laboratory” of Sun Yat-sen University.

“The intelligent, unmanned ship is a beautiful, new ‘marine species’ that will bring revolutionary changes for ocean observation,” Chen Dake, director of the laboratory, told Science and Technology Daily last year.

The ship, designed for speeds of up to 18 knots or equivalent to about 33km an hour, is expected to be delivered for use by the end of the year, according to the state-owned China Daily.

CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipping Co, the company that built the vessel, said in a statement that the carrier can be deployed in a target sea area and carry out “three-dimensional dynamic observations” using its swarm of autonomous drones, ships and submersibles.

“[For] the unmanned surface vehicles, there are diesel-powered, wave-powered and solar-powered ones. For underwater, there are smart profile buoys, which can make observations from surface to underwater, and also the underwater [glider],” Zhang Yunfei, founder and president of Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligence Technology, had said last year.

The vessel is expected to improve the efficiency and level of ocean observation and help develop better marine scientific and technological talent as well as further improve innovation, the company said.

The carrier and its parts – including the propulsion, power systems, survey systems and automation systems – were reportedly built locally.

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