Foreign naval reconnaissance aircraft have photographed one Chinese naval-based drone and others have been reported in the Chinese media.
China has been interested in developing UAVs since the 1960s when China shot down U.S. Air Force Ryan Firebee unmanned jet propelled reconnaissance aircraft.
The wreckage was reportedly dissembled and reverse engineered, resulting in the People's Liberation Army first UAVs, the prototype WuZhen-5, Signal magazine reported.
In 2006 China displayed an indigenously built drone model at the Zhuhai air show and now every major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research center devoted to drones, Chinese analysts say.
Chinese interest in foreign advanced UAV technology continues. After Iran recovered an advanced U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel stealth UAV last year, Iran's Nasim Online news Web site reported in December that Chinese and Russian military officials asked to be able to inspect it.
Internet security researchers at AlienVault Labs said Chinese hackers for months have been targeting U.S. federal agencies and contractors through infected e-mail apparently to spy on the U.S. Department of Defense's UAV strategy and other intelligence matters.
Strengthening the researchers' conclusions, at least six Chinese IP addresses, were hosting the command-and-control servers, while one of the software tools the authors used to package the e-mail campaigns contained message errors in Chinese, all the documentation running the server software was written in Mandarin and most of the Web addresses were registered on Xinnet.
An important future use of the Chinese navy drones is suspected is seen as employing them to hunt for foreign submarines.
In an impressive example of the Chinese military's commitment to the principles of "asymmetric warfare," researchers in China's' naval academy department of "underwater weaponry and chemical defense" in Dalian revealed how they intend to use ship-launched UAVs to locate underwater vessels.
The plan calls for equipping the aircraft with genetic algorithm software to allow them to make deductions about contacts through the use of a search engine that evolves an optimum solution by discarding feeble conclusions and improving the best to make stronger ones.
China is also reported considering building less advanced UAVs for the export market.
Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, which manufactures many of the most advanced military aircraft for the People's Liberation Army, representative Zhang Qiaoliang said: "The United States doesn't export many attack drones, so we're taking advantage of that hole in the market. The main reason is the amazing demand in the market for drones after 9/11."