SURVEILLANCE

State Oceanic Administration plans drone patrols for coastal areas

Civilian maritime authority says 11 bases will be home to UAVs with high-definition cameras

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 4:11am
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The civilian maritime authority has announced plans to set up a series of bases, from which it will conduct drone-surveillance flights along the Pacific coast of China.

The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) would establish 11 sites in coastal provinces to store and launch unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), with at least one drone located at each facility, said SOA division chief Yu Qingsong , according to Xinhua.

While details about the scale and schedule of the project were unclear, an SOA newspaper, China Ocean News, said on Monday that the drones would use high-definition cameras to monitor illegal land reclamation, sand dredging and other changes in the maritime environment.

The move follows a series of drone tests and trial runs to see whether military-developed UAV technology could be used to assist various civilian agencies on the mainland.

Late last year, the port city of Dalian , in northeastern Liaoning province, reported a successful test using drones to take aerial photos over an 980 square kilometre area. Similarly, maritime authorities in eastern Jiangsu province tested a drone-based 3-D monitoring system earlier this year.

Senior Colonel Li Jie , a researcher with the Chinese Naval Research Institute in Beijing, said the establishment of such UAV bases along the coast would help the country defend its maritime territory in the long run.

"The development of our home-made UAVs has reached a certain level now, after overcoming many technical problems, allowing the drones to operate over the sea for much longer.

"The UAVs are hard to detect and using them doesn't risk lives, so they could be used to monitor and track any foreign aerial vehicles within our maritime territory," he said. "The cost is low, too."

The Japanese Defence Ministry reported spotting three People's Liberation Army warships conducting take-off and landing exercises involving UAVs in April, about 700 kilometres east of a tiny Pacific atoll that China considers an international reef, but Japan calls Okinotori Island and considers part of its territory.

The China Ocean News said the UAVs could also supplement weather data currently provided by satellites.