Historically, China has not been known as a sea power. They are getting much closer with the help of startup company Oceanalpha Co. Ltd. Founder and president of the company, Yunfei Zhang, along with the support of government contracts, has turned what was once an academic research project into the biggest autonomous surface vessel operation.

Though the company has yet to generate profit, it has attracted the interest of major investors and has been valued at well over $700 million. The company’s specialization in surface-operating ocean drones, one of very few in the world, is one of the major draws along with Oceanalpha winning China’s 2013 Innovation & Entrepreneurship competition.

Heavily reduced prices on land leased from the Chinese government will also allow the company to build a new headquarters on the waterfront. The $40 million space will house large pools to test equipment, a secluded dock, and boat prototypes of multiple sizes and configurations.

Location in China gives the company access to the land and considerable capital thanks to Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, supporting increasing technology and the country’s place in global manufacturing and shipping.

The Future of Oceanalpha

With their R&D phase a decade in, Oceanalpha is broadening its horizons from hydrological data collection to security and rescue for maritime purposes. However, the real goal of the company is to expand into cargo.

By partnering with China’s Classification Society, Zhuhai municipal government and Wuhan University of Technology, Oceanalpha will be at the forefront of making autonomous cargo vessels
the standard in the maritime industry. The partnership seeks to complete an autonomous cargo vessel by the end of the year under a project titled Cloudrift.

Based on Zhang’s relationship with the Chinese government and Oceanalpha’s prime location in Zhuhai, a thriving commercial port, the company is well positioned to complete their project and make strides in autonomous shipping for the country.