- China plans to build a deep-sea base for unmanned submarine science and defence operations
- The first of its kind sea base is planned in the South China sea
China plans to build an unmanned deep-sea base in the South China sea that will be the first artificial intelligence colony in the world. The project was launched in November 2018 at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
The idea came after President Xi Jinping visited the deep-sea research institute in Hainan province and dared scientists to do something not done before. Should this project be a success, it will catapult China ahead of other countries in terms of the technology.
The zone mapped out for this project is in the deepest part of the ocean, a “V-shape” abyss, which extends between 6 000 and 11 000m beneath the surface of the ocean.
The project will have a self-contained laboratory which will analyse samples and send reports to the surface. The samples will be collected by robot submarines that will also survey sea beds and record life forms. The base will depend on cables connected to a ship or platform above the water for power and communication.
The deep sea is an extreme environment with high pressure, erosion, volatile geology and quakes that make it difficult for anything to operate at that level. The base will need to be strong enough to withstand these tumultuous conditions but more compact than a land facility of similar function.
The project has a budget of about Chinese Yuan1.1 billion, which equates to R2.34 billion. A large portion of this budget will be used to develop the technology and materials required for this project.
The base needs to be deep enough to adequately explore geological activities but not too deep that it is too susceptible to volcano eruption or landslides. A suitable location has been found, the Manila Trench on South China’s sea floor. It is the only trench deep enough – more than 5 000m deep — in the South China sea. This trench has abundant geological information that has yet to be explored, but is also home to a lot of volcanic activity as it is situated in one of the world’s largest earthquake zones.
Currently, 99% of the ocean floor which covers more than 70% of earth has not yet been explored. China will develop a lead in a number of industries if they are successful in building this sea base.
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