China successfully launched its first intelligent research mothership with a self-navigating and piloting system on Wednesday (May 18) in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, south China.
The vessel, which is supposed to be the first of its kind in the world, is intended for marine scientific study and can be operated remotely and cruise independently in open sea, according to China Media Group (CMG).
The futuristic-looking ship is the first mothership capable of coordinating various autonomous devices in the air, on the ocean’s surface, or beneath it.
The ship is 88.5 meters long, 14 meters wide, and 6.1 meters deep, with a draft of 3.7 meters and a designed displacement of 2,000 tonnes. It can travel at speeds ranging from 13 to 18 knots.
The large deck of the ship is meant to carry various unmanned equipment such as drones, unmanned ships, or submersibles that may be deployed to a specific area and accomplish dimensional and dynamic observation of certain things.
These equipment, which are spread in batches and create an automated network, are part of the vessel’s Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System (IMOSOS), which was developed by the Southern Laboratory of Ocean Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory.
The IMOSOS can be used to avoid and mitigate marine disasters, fine-map submarines, monitor the marine environment, and maintain offshore wind farms.
The ship, which is powered by AI and unmanned systems, can spend lengthy periods of time at sea collecting data in various situations, increasing the efficiency of marine scientific research and expanding research capabilities and scope.
The Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard, a subsidiary of China’s largest shipbuilding enterprise, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, began construction on the Zhu Hai Yun in July last year in Guangzhou. After completing sea trials, it is expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
“The intelligent, unmanned ship is a beautiful, new ‘marine species’ that will bring revolutionary changes for ocean observation,” Chen Dake, director of the laboratory, was quoted as saying by the Science and Technology Daily in 2021.
According to Fan Lei, head designer of the Huangpu Wenchong shipyard, a large chunk of the ship was built domestically.
“The power systems, propulsion systems, intelligence systems and survey operation support systems equipped are all developed by China,” Fan told the newspaper last year.
China is the world’s largest shipbuilder, and it is on its way to becoming a “maritime great power.” In recent years, the country has made significant investments in the development of research boats.
According to the state-owned Global Times, Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligence Technology Co, a leading producer of autonomous surface vehicles, said last year that the company had built an unmanned high-speed vessel, a milestone in its “dynamic collaboration confrontation technology.”
According to the study, the vessel was able to immediately intercept, besiege, and eject invading targets, and it was a watershed moment in the development of autonomous maritime intelligence technology.
According to analysts, artificial intelligence and unmanned systems could improve China’s marine surveillance capabilities at a low cost and with high efficiency.
China has already widely employed unmanned equipment systems in sectors such as maritime rescue and marine environment monitoring, according to Xu Shusheng, a researcher with the Ministry of Natural Resources’ South China Sea Administration, in a report published in 2020.
“With the development of 5G technology, China should seize the opportunity and apply the new achievements in the field of marine supervision,” Xu said.