China has created the world’s first artificial intelligence-driven ship named the “Zhu Hai Yun,” which is able to navigate autonomously through open bodies of water. It is the world’s first autonomous, crewless ship that can deploy dozens of drones.

The ship known as Zhu Hai Yun was largely described as a marine research vessel that had the primary aim to help marine scientists to observe and gain data underwater. Chinese scientists have also described it as a tool that could be used in marine disaster prevention and mitigation, marine environment monitoring, and offshore wind farm maintenance aside from conducting scientific research.

“The intelligent, unmanned ship is a beautiful, new ‘marine species’ that will bring revolutionary changes for ocean observation,” Scientist and Professor Dake Chen said, who is also the Director of the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai) at Sun Yat-sen University.

The construction of the ship was reportedly started in July of last year by the Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard. This company is reportedly a subsidiary of China’s largest shipbuilding company, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation.

The Zhu Hai Yun is reported to be 290 feet long, 46 feet wide, and 20 feet deep with a displacement of 2,000 tons, reaching speeds of up to 19 knots. The vessel’s large deck enables it to carry drones and smaller, unmanned ships and submersibles.

While unmanned surface vessels have been very common over the past few years as the technology progresses, what reportedly sets it apart from the other unmanned ships aside from its drones is its custom-built artificial intelligence system.

Called the Intelligent Mobile Ocean Stereo Observing System, developed by Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), it is able to direct the various unmanned drones, ships, and submersibles. Forming a network of unmanned systems together, it creates a unified effort to observe and collect data. Furthermore, its drones are reportedly able to conduct air, sea surface, and underwater monitoring remotely, making it a very powerful tool for ocean research – thus earning it the moniker of a drone “mothership” or a “drone ship. The shipyard that built the vessel shares that these all together can create three-dimensional dynamic observations through the use of unmanned drones, boats, and submersibles.

Chinese marine scientists have said that the new ship is a large boost to their work and that the help of artificial intelligence only bolsters their capacity to do in-depth marine observations.