As China pursues maritime claims on fronts as diverse as ADIZs and archaeology, South China Morning Post’s Stephen Chen reports on its efforts to develop aquatic drones for environmental and commercial but especially security uses:
Professor Ma Zhongli, robotic vessel expert at Harbin Engineering University, said the government had invested intensively in UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, over the past few decades. Only recently did the authorities realise the practical value and strategic importance of unmanned marine vessels.
Ma said the military was particularly interested in using the vessels for intelligence gathering and drawing enemies’ fire in sea battles. They will be able to carry various payloads from infrared cameras to missile launchers.
[…] “China shares the sea with many countries nearby. In these troubled waters, unmanned vessels can be more effective, convenient and safe than manned ships in many situations. They will also cost less,” she said. “Their power will double if they are deployed with [aerial] drones.” [Source]