Construction of a test field for unmanned cargo ships－the first of its kind in Asia－has begun in Zhuhai, a coastal city in Guangdong province.
The test field, located in the Wanshan Marine Area in Zhuhai, will cover 771.6 square kilometers, of which the first phase of 21.6 sq km will be used for debugging work and the second phase for performance tests, according to the Zhuhai government.
The test field is a joint program between the local government, China Classification Society, Wuhan University of Technology, and Oceanalpha－a Zhuhai-based company focused on unmanned surface vessel development.
Infrastructure and support facilities, including for network communication, navigation radar, optoelectronic devices and automatic mooring systems will be built.
As a comprehensive test field, it will contribute to the development of China"s unmanned ship industry and establish nationwide standards for the industry, according to Lu Xiaofeng, vice-mayor of Zhuhai.
"Construction of the test field will help push forward the development, testing and certification of unmanned cargo ships and other related innovative technologies in the industry," said Lu.
In December, China unveiled the world"s fastest unmanned waterborne surface vehicle, the Tianxing-1, at the fifth China Marine Economy Expo in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, according to Science Daily.
With a top speed over 50 knots, the vehicle is an electric-gasoline hybrid of 12.2 meters long, with a displacement of 7.5 metric tons.
As one of the leading producers of unmanned cargo ships, Oceanalpha is also working with several partners to produce new energy unmanned cargo ships.
The Jindouyun, or "cloud-borne," a small unmanned surface vehicle, will be tested in the field by the end of this year. The vehicles will be put into commercial operation in 2019, according to the company.
"The test field will help facilitate use of new energy and artificial technologies in the cargo shipping industry," said Lu.