China’s first AI-operated drone vessel has successfully undergone its initial sea trial, with developers Beikun Intelligence saying some of its technological capabilities are “world-leading.”
Beikun’s head Mu Haifang told the Zhoushan Daily that the unmanned surface vessel (USV) was put through two set up routes successfully and collected data as planned.
The 200-ton USV, which resembles a hybrid of the US Sea Hunter drone ship and US Zumwalt-class destroyer completed its three-hour maiden sea voyage offshore of Zhoushan, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, according to the South China Morning Post.
Its most distinctive feature is its artificial intelligence cabin with autonomous navigation technologies, and all parts on the boat are fully made in ChinaMu Haifang
While the unnamed USV bears a significant resemblance to the US Navy’s most advanced stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt, most notably its boxy superstructure, wave-piercing nose and tumblehome hull shape, there are still some distinct differences.
China’s USV has a trimaran at its stern, a design feature first seen on the Sea Hunter, which has been in trials since its launch in 2016. In a 2018-19 trial, it sailed autonomously from San Diego in California to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbour and back, in a round trip of more than 8,300km (5,200 miles), according to the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese boat matches the US Navy’s Sea Hunter in size, the world’s largest USV, at 40 meters long and 13 meters wide, with a displacement of 145 tonnes, compared to the Zumwalt’s 190 meters by 25 meters and 15,000-tonne displacement.
The Chinese USV’s manufacturer, Beikun, did not say what the exact use of the vessel is, but stated it was designed to achieve the goals of high sea cruising, low noise, intelligence, stealth, as well as unmanned and autonomous sailing, according to the Zhoushan Daily report.“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.