Concept: Beijing’s shipbuilding company China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) has rolled out the world’s first AI-powered drone carrier named Zhu Hai Yun which contains dozens of autonomous drones, ships, and submersibles to conduct marine research and observation. The drone carrier is intended to help China’s oceanographers to expand their research through the use of unmanned and autonomous tools.

Nature of Disruption: Zhu Hai Yun is 88m long, 14m wide, and 6m deep and can be controlled remotely and can navigate autonomously in open water. It can also form a network to observe targets and help maintain maritime security. The unmanned drone carrier features an AI system called the Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System (IMOSOS), developed by the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory. The IMOSOS system can serve as a tool for marine disaster prevention and mitigation, submarine fine mapping, marine environment monitoring, and offshore wind farm maintenance. Weighing 2000 tons, it can travel at speeds of 24 km/h and has a top speed of 33 km/h. The ship can deploy its boats, subs, and aircraft, communicate with them, and run coordinated missions including conducting task-oriented adaptive networking to achieve 3D views of specific targets. It is capable of covering an area with a diameter of 100 km, 4 km above the water surface, and 4 km inland.

Outlook: Oceanographic researchers are leveraging new technologies to extend the scope and reach of the research and uncover the hidden secrets of the ocean. CSSC claims that the new autonomous drone carrier can help researchers improve the efficiency and level of ocean observation and help develop better marine scientific and technological talent. Zhu Hai Yun’s developers have maximized domestic content in the ship including propulsion, power systems, survey systems, and automation systems.

This article was originally published in