China Building Capability to Launch Aerial Drone Swarms from Aircraft Carriers
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) seems to have taken significant step forward in its quest to deploy huge aerial drone swarms with news a state-owned corporation better known as a supplier of electronic equipment to the PLA has set the unofficial world record for the number of fixed-wing drones flying in formation.
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State-controlled media said China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) flew 119 fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles simultaneously, but released no further details about this alleged record breaking flight, such as when and where this feat took place.
The flight of these 119 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) broke the previous drone swarm record of 67 drones.
Reports confirm this flight was held to test the capability of launching drone swarms from aircraft carriers of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
In a statement, CETC said this technological breakthrough put China in a leading position in the field of massed deployment of UAVs or drone swarms.
The company said the propeller-driven UAVs were launched in several groups using a power-assisted catapult system similar to those used by fighter jets on aircraft carriers.
Once airborne, the UAVs regrouped for a formation flight then split away to head for separate targets.
Large drone squadrons could become a disruptive force to "change the game" in air combat, according to project scientist Zhao Yanjie.
Since drones were invented in 1917, intelligent swarms have held the promise of becoming a disruptive force in warfare but were held back by technological limitations. The main disadvantage is that drone controllers were only able to fly one or a small number of the aerial drones because the unmanned aircraft depend on human commands.
Zhao said this has changed and CETC drones can now fly with little human intervention by using computer technology and artificial intelligence or AI.
He noted their technology allows drones to coordinate flight paths to avoid collisions, and to accomplish different missions.
CETC describes itself as "a large-scale state-owned enterprise approved by the State Council. As one of the Top 10 military industry groups controlled directly by the central government, CETC is mainly engaged in the engineering and construction of essential military/civil information system, as well as in the research and manufacturing of major electronics equipments, communication and electronics products, key components and software."
CETC consists of 58 member units and eight listed companies, which are distributed in 18 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions.