back to article Drone ship carrying yet more drones launches in China

Chinese academics have christened an ocean research vessel that has a twist: it will sail the seas with a complement of aerial and ocean-going drones and no human crew. The Zhu Hai Yun, or Zhuhai Cloud, launched in Guangzhou after a year of construction. The 290-foot-long mothership can hit a top speed of 18 knots (about 20 …

  1. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

    Carrier command...

    Now all we need is an archipelago of small square islands to mysteriously appear...

    1. F. Frederick Skitty

      Re: Carrier command...

      Came here to say something similar. Going to have to drag out my Atari ST and indulge in a Carrier Command session now!

    2. Francis Boyle

      Re: Carrier command...

      It wouldn't exactly be mysterious given China's known expertise in making islands appear.

    3. 1752
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Carrier command...

      Man did not make it to the end of the first paragraph before thinking of Carrier command. Me and me brother used to take in turns playing the same game. In the end the we had so much of the map one of defence islands destroyed the emery carrier in the end.

  2. innominatus

    ROTM

    And so it begins? Autonomous, military technology to intercept and expel targets... Do Yunzhou do a line in shark-mounted lasers for good measure?

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Go

      Re: ROTM

      I think they do a line of Freekin Sharks™ with built in lasers! The better question is can the ships self-replicate if damaged.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: ROTM

        At which point shipping grinds to a halt as does any sea based installation as out of control robot craft cannibalise anything they can to repair and replicate themselves.

        Flying over the oceans will also not be possible as the drone ships will shoot down anything as a threat and of course resources.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: ROTM

      And like so many advances in science, it is invariably the military interest that provides the funding to go to the next level or the incentive to do the research in the first place.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: ROTM

        "it is invariably the military interest ... "

        Er: Rule 34

  3. trindflo Bronze badge
    Pirate

    intercept and expel?

    Just how "wild west" is it out there?

    If a robot is interfering with a vessel, is it reasonable for the vessel to eliminate the interference? Drones are regularly targeted in war zones and it seems that this is just to be expected. If an "intercept and expel" drone goes a little bit crazy and wanders into another country's coastal waters, I'd expect the offended country is within their rights to take countermeasures.

    What interests me is all the less than obvious scenarios, say where certain countries have drawn maps with interesting ideas about how international waters should work. Is this a path to more conflict, or is it a way that the country with more resources simply outspends others - creating more drones and promoting the open targeting of drones anywhere anytime? When you are ahead in chess, it makes sense to trade similarly valued pieces. If I can outspend you, sure let's shoot down each others drones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @trindflo - Re: intercept and expel?

      Short answer is both (as in China and US): this is a path to more conflict and it is a way for a country with more resources simply outspends others.

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: @trindflo - intercept and expel?

        And crucially, the more the human on the ground is removed from the equation (and by that I mean expensive military personnel), the easer it becomes for people who are sat in a nice safe office a few thousand miles away to make the decisions.

        Particularly in the West, the risk of military casualties and how long something will run are often the main considerations. Pushing everything down to autonomous or remotely controlled equipment, money and how quickly it can be replaced runs the risk of:

        1. Insufficient frontline military personal to get the job done with the tech has all failed or is inappropriate

        2. Insufficient equipment because of 1, & the budget spent on the drones.

        3. Total focus on a single potential theatre so that when the inevitable happens you have nothing that will do the job so it is a compromise.

        Look at Afghanistan, no matter how much tech and equipment there was, a relatively untrained local could create havoc with a simple IED, Kalashnikov or RPG. Much the same with Bosnia,

        Kuwait was different because of simple overwhelming force (bombing everything first) and a (relatively) flat desert. Prior to then all the focus was on Europe.

        1. fajensen

          Re: @trindflo - intercept and expel?

          The point of Afghanistan was to never win, but to use up loads of kit, and to keep at least one war cooking forever, benefiting "The Economy", and having a convenient "existential threat" around to justify it all. The problem being that the old USSR so rudely and totally unexpected shat the bed and croaked, leaving everyone grasping for new threats :p

          I think Kuwait was different because they still had all those weapons and equipment stockpiled for when the USSR would pour through the Fulda Gap, so they took that opportunity to re-target, use it all up and restock.

          But, Afghanistan was just retarded: We are spending hundreds of billions annually, and growing that +5% p/a, on a very technical millitary that basically just bombs some rubble into smaller rubble, because thats all the threat there was left to bomb in Afghanistan after 6 months.

          But, we can rejoice, Russia is back in the game, things are normalised, we have a decent enough threat to fear, and the defence business will be roaring back to its old glory again.

  4. JDPower666 Bronze badge

    So it's a drone droneship carrying droneship drones?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Meanwhile https://www.theregister.com/2022/05/27/mayflower_autonomous_ship_latest/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Doctor Syntax

        All they should do is to mount a missile launcher or a laser weapon. This will make it interesting for the military and it will cross all major oceans without a glitch.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    its a sub reacon hunter, as simple as that. so everyone should sink the buggers on sight.

  6. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    Nobody mentioned weather

    What happens when this ship meets a major typhoon?

    1. Phil Kingston

      Re: Nobody mentioned weather

      She salutes

  7. FuzzyTheBear
    Big Brother

    Robots

    Robots fighting robots .. Skynet anyone ?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's amazing what tech you can self-justify while hoping to self-justify you and your dominant self (and ideology) on a huge and grand scale AND as your whole life meaning!

    Commoditize away....with all those sad but supposedly great end results, the Chinese communist party are amazing with tech especially since that outside umm 'investment' has been saving them from more swallow based mass extermination (and then famine) based self-retardation justifications!

    Did they not have enough folks needing a job, there's quite a few people to potentially replace in China?

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      AmanfromMars[0-9], is that you ? OTOH, lots of drones. Is there any evidence they actually do something other than go over the side etc ?

  9. Potemkine! Silver badge

    I wonder if the " Zhu Hai Yun" will be a 21st century's Dreadnought, first of a new kind of ships that will eventually replace aircraft carriers

  10. PhilipN

    What would the (U.S.) Navy say?

    That a vessel with a Marines crew also has no human intelligence on board.

  11. imanidiot Silver badge

    Pointless PR

    Sounds nice, entirely pointless. The meatbags generally aren't on the ship for the easy tasks, they're there primarily to fix things when they inevitably break. And then if you have them aboard for that anyway, might as well keep them busy with sailing the vessel and general maintenance waiting for stuff to break. Because as anyone who's ever worked on floaty things will know, things WILL break.

    1. trindflo Bronze badge
      Pirate

      Re: Pointless PR (or not)

      Not the way I heard it. My understanding is the ultimate goal is a completely hardened robot ship that is immune to pirates: they can board it easily enough, but no hostages and no way to control it from onboard. Nothing to do but wait on the ship for the military to arrive. Takes all the cheer out of hoisting the jolly roger. It does seem like it would require flying humans out to the robot ships from time to time, because yes things will break.

    2. fajensen

      Re: Pointless PR

      A normal battle ship has a ludicrous amount of people for its size, all milling around, and barely managing to avoid creating more problems than those they are supposed to solve. These ships are running at capacity :)

      If robots are there for the fighting and shooting, or really just sitting inside sealed containers in a protective atmosphere, then one could have a lot fewer meatbags run around fixing things, and doing maintainance.

      A normal ship's crew of perhaps 12-15 people would be sufficient. They don't even have to know what the mission is and with a crew that small one could afford to pay and feed them well enough to not really care.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Pointless PR

        There's no longer any battleships in service anywhere afaik. Probably for day to day operations a modern warship could do with far less crew, but again, those crew are there for when the shit hits the fan and half the ship is full of holes, letting the water in and the other half is on fire. Not for day to day routine

  12. Pete 2 Silver badge

    rearrange these words to get to the truth?

    > machines it can control with minimal human assistance

    In reality, these words mean machines it has minimal control over

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