China unveiled and launched the world’s first unmanned seaborne drone carrier on May 18, 2022.
The ship is called the Zhu Hai Yun, and construction began in July 2021 at the Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard in Guangzhou, China. The ship is 88.5 meters (290 feet) long, 14 meters (46 feet) wide, weighs 2,000 tonnes, and has a top speed of 18 knots (20.7 miles per hour, 33.3 kilometers per hour).
According to Dake Chen, director of the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory, the ship can carry over fifty autonomous systems, “including unmanned boats, drones, and underwater vehicles.” The ship and its onboard drone systems will be used for ocean observation and marine scientific research.
These unmanned systems can be deployed and controlled, and communicated remotely from the vessel. A command system enables the ship to achieve joint operation among its unmanned systems. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that the ship also 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.