Drones have been spotted for the first time on China’s aircraft carrier Shandong, in a video released by the PLA Navy’s South Sea Fleet. Seven unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were briefly visible on the deck of the Shandong , China’s second aircraft carrier and the first to be developed domestically. The drone types were not identifiable. The Shandong is in its first scheduled maintenance and refurbishment after more than two years of active service, according to a report in April by the state-owned tabloid Global Times. Experts quoted in the report said the carrier would come back stronger than ever in a few months. This is not the first time the navy has deployed UVAs on China’s large warships. A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing drone was used by a Type 052C destroyer in a South China Sea exercise in 2019. Shanghai shipyard clears the docks ahead of expected carrier launch And UVAs spotted last year on China’s Type 055 destroyer could be used for tasks including anti-submarine and reconnaissance, Chinese media reports said. While the Shandong gets a refit, China’s third aircraft carrier is expected to be launched soon. The Type 003 has a flat-top flight deck with three electromagnetic catapults, similar to the world’s most advanced aircraft launch systems. Last week, China unveiled the world’s first drone carrier , which is in sea trials with delivery expected by the end of the year. The Zhu Hai Yun can be controlled remotely to navigate autonomously in open waters. China is the world’s leading drone manufacturer and has a wide range of systems in series production and in use across its army, navy, air force and rocket force – the military’s strategic and tactical missiles unit. The best-known Chinese military drones are the Wing Loong and CASC Rainbow families, both of which include multipurpose attack drones. Countries are accelerating research and development of carrier-based UAVs, with the US Navy completing its first tests of the MQ-25 Stingray last year, which confirmed the aerial refuelling drone could be integrated into a carrier environment.