Ocean research non-profit ProMare and IBM have announced the launch of their new ship the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS). The AI and solar powered research vessel will be the largest to attempt an unmanned crossing of the Atlantic.
The ship is named after the Mayflower that brought the first pilgrims to America. It will be launched from the same port in England as the original, and commemorates 400 years since the first sailing.
“I think the most similar thing between this project and the original 400 years ago was that neither of us are sure we were gonna make it,” said Brett Phaneuf, Director of the MAS.
The purpose of the voyage is to undertake research in areas such as global warming, micro-plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. It features an AI Captain which is fed data from 30+ sensors and 6 AI cameras to allow it to make decisions without any human input.
The ship is powered by solar-panels that charge batteries - even at night. A single large sail provides extra propulsion, while also making the MAS more visible to other ships. It also has a backup generator in case it needs extra power in an emergency.
Not having to carry any human passengers has allowed the MAS freedom to concentrate on mechanics and function. At around 5 tonnes it is tiny compared to the original Mayflower which weighed in at 180 tonnes. However, the new ship is almost 10x faster with a top speed of 20 knots compared to 2.5.
The ship be launched today and spend 6 months at sea undertaking trials and research before crossing the Atlantic in March 2021. The original Mayflower took 2 months to travel from England to America, but this time they are hoping to do it in less than 2 weeks.