Yunzhou Intelligence Technology (Yunzhou Tech), a Zhuhai-based company specialising in designing and manufacturing unmanned surface vessels (USVs), performed a swarming USV demonstration comprising 56 autonomous USVs in the Wanshan Archipelago – in the south-eastern province of Guangdong bordering Hong Kong and Macau – on 29 May, a company source confirmed to Jane’s .
According to a Yunzhou Tech spokesperson, the technology demonstration was conducted using modified ME40 USVs that were equipped with specially developed ‘autonomy modules’. These systems provide the sea vehicles with real-time decision making and collaborative engagement capabilities, enabling them to perform complex and high-risk manoeuvres with minimal human intervention.
According to company specifications, the ME40 USV is a 1.63 m long, 0.71 m wide, and 0.37 m tall modular USV that is typically configured for hydrographic surveys. The sea vehicle is constructed from fibre-reinforced composites and is powered by a 14.8 V lithium polymer battery that enables it to operate for up to 3 hours when cruising at an economical speed of 3 n miles/hr, although it can also perform short-duration sprints of up to 7.7 n miles/hr.
The ME40 is equipped with a bi-directional radio frequency (RF) communications suite, with a maximum control radius of 5 km. Data transmission, including video streaming, is effective within 2 km.
“In the face of rough and complex sea conditions, a sea formation [comprising] 56 unmanned small boats manoeuvred neatly, avoiding islands and reefs, and quickly adopting new formations,” the company said in a statement to Jane's .
Besides cruising in a tight formation amid the complex island geography and marine features of the archipelago, the USVs also formed the outline of Liaoning – the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s first aircraft carrier – as well as the Chinese characters of ‘military’ and ‘people’ that symbolises civil–military integration, a key strategy by the Chinese government to advance military capability by leveraging advanced technologies and techniques in commercial domains.
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