China's World First Drone Carrier uses AI for Unmanned Maritime Intelligence
China's integration of A.I. into military vehicles is notable in 2022.
This is AiSupremacy Premium.
One of the reasons I called this Newsletter “AiSupremacy” was to highlight the AI-arms race of the cold tech war between the United States and Taiwan.
On that front, it’s been a pretty eventful week. Biden broken rank from tradition when he basically said he would defend a military invasion of Taiwan.
When asked at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida whether the U.S. would be prepared to defend Taiwan if attacked, Biden replied, “Yes.”
“That’s the commitment we made,” Biden said. “We agree with the ‘one China’ policy. We signed on to it. All the attendant agreements [were] made from there. But the idea that that can be taken by force, just taken by force. It’s just not, it’s just not appropriate.”
With leaders now in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan not well predisposed to China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, Biden’s visit to Asia really has rocked the boat a bit.
Curiously just a week before there was a pretty big announcement (May 19th, 2022) that a lot of people missed about China’s “AI Drone Carrier”, so let’s try to unpack it.
China’s world-first AI-powered drone carrier is being hailed as a new ‘marine species’
The mysterious vessel is 88-metre vessel can reportedly quickly intercept, besiege and expel invasive targets. This is the robotic military of A.I. I have been writing and warning about since I founded this Newsletter.
The unmanned ship launched on Wednesday May 18th, 2022, that can carry dozens of drones, unmanned ships and submersibles to create a powerful ocean research tool, state journal says.
I think it is a sign that China’s military use of A.I. is becoming more advanced than some of its neighbors like Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan and others in the region. In this context, Biden’s comment makes more sense, let’s take a look at it on YouTube here.
China’s Approach to Unmanned Ships
The unmanned ship, which can be controlled remotely and navigate autonomously in open water, will be a powerful tool for the nation to carry out marine scientific research and observation, according to the state-run Science and Technology Daily.
It comes as artificial intelligence plays an increasingly important role in maintaining maritime security, controlling sea lanes and competing for marine resources. China aims to use AI technology to expand its maritime influence.
China is a global leader in robotics and drone technology. China says that Zhu Hai Yun will be used to carry out marine scientific research and observation. However with rising tensions in the South China Sea especially with South Korea and Japan, you can imagine how such an unmanned ship could be used in the near future.
The drone carrier which is capable of operating on its own, the 88-meter-long, 14-meter-wide, and 6-meter-deep vessel, can essentially be a launch bad for policing its increasing claims on territory. China has militarized a number of islands in the South China Sea as of March, 2022.
The vessel 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. However for my military minded readers and anyone with common sense, China is likely working on A.I. based technologies that could give it the upper hand in naval encounters in its multiple disputed regions in the years ahead.
The Zhu Hai Yun can thus be viewed as a kind of early prototype with likely military equivalents. What will be the result of the automation of drone based surveillance systems and robotics in war and on disputed borders? Some even believe Biden is baiting China to take action on Taiwan and not just random ramblings of an aging President.
A new "marine species"
According to the state-run Science and Technology Daily, the automated ship, which can be operated remotely and navigate autonomously in wide ocean, will be a powerful tool for the nation. It’s not clear what China means when it calls the A.I. guided vessel a new marine species? A vessel where drones are its senses and it is capable of advanced weaponry with remote guidance paints a rather worrisome picture for strategic (smaller) regional trading partners that have soured on China due to aggressive rhetoric and trade sanctions often employed by Chinese leaders and diplomats.
Zhu Hai Yun
This vessel has been named as ‘Zhu Hai Yun'. It has a speed of 18 knots and can carry dozens of drone aircraft and unmanned water craft. The Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System (IMOSOS), built by the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), also known as the "Southern Ocean Laboratory" of Sun Yat-sen University.
According to a statement by, CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipping Co, that built the vessel, the carrier's swarm of autonomous drones, ships, and submersibles can be deployed in a designated sea area and conduct "three-dimensional dynamic observations." As we have seen with Ukraine, Satellite and drone technology is increasingly important in war intelligence and strategic operations in military engagement.
“The intelligent, unmanned ship is a beautiful, new ‘marine species’ that will bring revolutionary changes for ocean observation,” Chen Dake, director of the laboratory responsible for the ship, was quoted as saying by the Science and Technology Daily back in 2021 when construction of the vessel began. What is the context however of “ocean observation” in view of China’s self-interests and ambitious new military Nationalism?
Bearing the name Zhu Hai Yun, construction of the vessel in Guangzhou by the Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard, a subsidiary of China’s largest shipbuilding company the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, began in July 2021.
The vessel 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.
Regarding a military invasion of Taiwan by China, Biden on his first trip to Japan since taking office, said it was not his expectation that such an event would happen or be attempted. However as we have seen with Putin (with his serious illness), anything is possible when power is too centralized.
China’s Aggressive Use of A.I. in Everything
With this latest ship, China is hoping that artificial intelligence and unmanned systems could enhance its marine supervision capacity at a lower cost and with higher efficiency than manned operations.
China in recent years is the global leader in the adoption of A.I. into all aspects of life including surveillance and what I term Neo-surveillance capitalism with Chinese characteristics.
When news comes on the advent of autonomous vehicles beginning to make headlines around the world, whether its Baidu or Pony.ai or others, China is right there. There are autonomous cars, autonomous drones, and even autonomous robots. Now China is showing a capability for autonomous hybrid vessels when used in combination with drones could actually be pretty powerful.
The South China Morning Post has a short video you can see here.
China’s talent for automation means it can become very proficient at these sorts of vessels well before any direct military engagement becomes likely. China has been known to use unmanned equipment systems in areas such as maritime rescue and marine environment monitoring so this ship is the next step in a long evolution of using autonomous vessels.
China is unlikely to enter military conflicts that could endanger its struggling economic situation with the possibility of global sanctions. However China will continue to integrate A.I. into more aspects of its smart cities, infrastructure, talent for innovation and push to lead new technologies globally. This means a day will come when it will have a significant A.I. advantage in military, economic and trade while having consumers with more access to convenience than many other countries.
On Substack I am among the “China watchers” that makes it such a great community of thought leaders. I have another “secret” Newsletter on China that you might find useful to follow. It attempts to follow China from a positive perspective where China is seen as a global leader in technological innovation.
Anyways I thought this news was pretty interesting in China’s rhetoric of how it’s embedding A.I. into its military, transportation, logistics and surveillance systems.
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Thanks for reading!
What do you think about China’s position on Taiwan and how complicated it has become?