A research team in China has unveiled an underwater drone that can recognize, follow and attack an enemy submarine without human intervention.

The secret project, funded by the Chinese military, was partially declassified last week after. 10 years after field tests of an underwater drone, experts have a rare opportunity to look at the results shown by an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) in the Taiwan Strait.

A secret Chinese underwater drone patrolled a designated area at a depth of 10 meters. While on duty, the UUV detected a target using sonar, which imitated the noise of a submarine. The device fired a torpedo at the target and hit it. It is known that an underwater drone is able to independently identify a target, but how exactly does it distinguish enemy submarines from other objects is not specified. The technical specifications of the device are also not published.

It is unclear why China declassified the details of the test, but tensions over the Taiwan Strait recently peaked in decades. The United States and Japan have said there is a possibility of military intervention if Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of its territory, attempts to seize the island by force.

“The needs of future submarine warfare open up new opportunities for the development of unmanned platforms,” ​​the researchers said in an article published in the journal Harbin Engineering University.

In general, AI-based unmanned submarines can make mistakes, and their communication with human commanders can be interrupted by the enemy. Whether robots should be released to hunt and kill humans remains an ethical issue, the South China Morning Post notes.