China has used its superior maritime capabilities to pressure its less-powerful neighbors into accepting outsized claims to most of the South China Sea. To bolster its claims, Beijing has even managed to ‘build’ new islands by dredging sand to create landmass “islands” consisting of about 3,200 acres. On some of these islands, China has placed military assets.

But Beijing will begin relying further on technology as well to enforce its claims, which will include a new type of drone:

The 5.85-meter-long drone can access the sea’s islets and waters with little wear-and-tear, meaning “low” maintenance costs, the website says. The drones can airdrop materials and emergency supplies in “environments where takeoff and landing are impossible,” it adds. The carbon-fiber drone flies up to 180 kph for 15 hours and carries as much as 250 kilograms of cargo.

If this UAV proves to cost less to operate than traditional solutions, it should find a market with Chinese oil drillers, equipment providers (radars or telecoms, for example) and any official missions required to transport cargo around the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea.

Analyst comment: China is committed to becoming the hegemonic power in Asia (and beyond) and will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, employing diplomacy and soft power, pressure, threats, intimidation — and technology.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 2: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-China conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.