The first AI-controlled drone watercraft in China has completed its first sea trial, with makers Beikun Intelligence saying that some of its technological capabilities are “world-leading.”

The unmanned surface vessel (USV) was successfully put through two set up routes and acquired data as expected, according to Beikun’s head Mu Haifang, who spoke to the Zhoushan Daily.

According to the South China Morning Post, the 200-ton USV, which resembles a cross between a US Sea Hunter drone ship and a US Zumwalt-class destroyer, made its three-hour maiden sea cruise offshore of Zhoushan in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

“Its most distinctive feature is its artificial intelligence cabin with autonomous navigation technologies, and all parts on the boat are fully made in China”

Mu Haifang

While there are some similarities between the unnamed USV and the US Navy’s most sophisticated stealth destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, such as its boxy superstructure, wave-piercing tip, and tumblehome hull shape, there are also major variances.

The trimaran at the stern of China’s USV is a design feature that was first seen on the Sea Hunter, which has been in trials since its launch in 2016. According to the South China Morning Post, it sailed autonomously from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and returned in 2018-19.

The Chinese boat is the same size as the US Navy’s Sea Hunter, the world’s largest USV, at 40 meters long and 13 meters wide, with a displacement of 145 tons, compared to the Zumwalt’s 190 meters by 25 meters and 15,000 tons.

According to the Zhoushan Daily, the Chinese USV’s maker, Beikun, did not specify the vessel’s exact purpose but indicated that it was created to accomplish the goals of high sea cruising, low noise, intelligence, stealth, as well as unmanned and autonomous sailing.

“At present, the unmanned boat is sailing autonomously in relatively open waters, and there is still some distance to go before it reaches the goal of high-speed autonomous navigation,” Mu added.

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