As driverless technology has progressed, cities around the world have been developing test areas to help the technology companies put their wares through their paces. What is perhaps less common are similar facilities for the development of pilotless boats.
That is exactly what is being developed in China however, as construction is underway on a test site for unmanned ships. The facility, which will be based in Zhuhai in the Guangdong province, is the result of a consortium consisting of the Zhuhai city government, the China Classification Society, Wuhan University of Technology, and Oceanalpha, an unmanned vessel company.
The first phase of the project will consist of a 21.6 square kilometer test site, before the second phase massively expands this up to 750 square kilometers. The site will aim to replicate commercial shipping facilities, and will feature communication and navigation facilities and a berth.
The facility is designed to simulate real environments so that unmanned ships can undergo rigorous testing and verification of a range of functions, including route planning, tracking, berthing and departure.
Oceanalpha say their unmanned patrol ship has been given a license to undergo testing, with the project marking the latest step in the march towards automation on the seas. It’s a transition that shipping experts believe could save millions as captains relocate from the oceans to connected command centers.
The Chinese authorities hope that the new test facility will keep them at the forefront of this burgeoning market.
“Zhuhai hopes to become a high-tech base for the development, test and certification of unmanned ships in three to five years,” said Lu Xiaofeng, deputy mayor of Zhuhai.