Inside China’s world-first AI drone mothership that could launch secret ‘bot swarm’ attacks on US Navy

CHINA has launched an Artificial Intelligence drone mothership that is able to operate and potentially launch military attacks autonomously in a chilling world-first.

According to the Chinese, the vessel is designed for marine research but already there have been fears it could be used to launch attacks on the US Navy and other adversaries.

The Zhu Hai Yun is reportedly able to carry around 50 aerial, surface and undersea drones, and was launched at a ship yard in the city of Guangzhou.

Most of the rear of the ship is an open deck where flying drones can land and be stored while there is also launch and recovery and for other drones.

The 290-foot-long mothership can hit a top speed of 20 miles per hour and is said to boast Artificial Intelligence (AI) operations systems allowing it to operate autonomously.

While the Chinese insist the vessel will be a “powerful ocean research tool”, others have been quick to point to its potentially more sinister applications.


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The ability to conduct wide area surveillance would allow the China’s navy to seek out and target, adversary vessels or vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean using drone swarms or other weapons.

Timothy Heath, a senior security analyst from the U.S. think tank Rand Post that the vessel definitely has a military application.

"The drone carrier might deploy to remote locations to deploy smart mines, for example," he told the South China Morning Post. 

"The most immediate benefit to the PLA is the increase in knowledge about relevant waters through the collection of data by the UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles).

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“This can help PLA Navy submarines operate with greater confidence and effectiveness in those areas."

A crew would take control of the ship’s navigation system via remote control or by being physically present on board in order for it to navigate busy port areas.

Chen Dake, director of the university research lab that developed the ship’s AI system, said the vessel constitutes a new “marine species”.

“The intelligent, unmanned ship…will bring revolutionary changes for ocean observation,” he said.

Drones have previously been directed by a single operator who ‘fly’ the aircraft from a remote base.

But in recent years, militaries have been working on developing Artificial Intelligence that allows the drones to work together without the need for an operator.

The basic idea of a drone swarm is that its machines are able to make decisions among themselves.

The swarm continue its mission, even if loses some drones during its mission.

The machine learning system is fed with data sourced from satellites, other reconnaissance drones, and aerial vehicles, as well as intelligence collected by ground units. 

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Last year it emerged revealed it China developing a top secret underwater drone designed to track and destroy enemy submarines with no human input.

The craft is said to rely entirely on artificial intelligence and does not need any instructions from an operator.

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