Mayflower Autonomous Ship Crosses Atlantic

In the year 1620, the Mayflower crossed the formidable Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth to Massachusetts, carrying 102 passengers and 30 crew members aboard. With a top speed of just three knots provided by canvas sails, the 30m timber vessel took well over two months to make the difficult crossing.


On June 5th 2022, the AI-controlled Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), named after its famed predecessor, completed a similar 3,500-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean in just 40 days, becoming in the process the biggest unmanned vessel yet to do so.

Setting sail from Plymouth on April 29th, the fully solar-powered craft was bound for Massachusetts. Unfortunately, due to issues with her generator and battery charger, the decision was taken to divert the MAS to Nova Scotia in Canada, where she is expected to remain for two or three weeks before completing her historic voyage on to Massachusetts.

The MAS was created in just two years and was intended to 'show the development of technology in the centuries since the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World'. Artificial intelligence software, designed by technology giant IBM and trained on more than a million images collected from open databases and at-sea cameras, was able to make split-second decisions without any interaction with or intervention from humans. Six AI cameras, 15 edge devices and over 30 sensors helped the craft to manoeuvre around hazards such as marine animals, all the while adhering strictly to all relevant maritime laws.

The trimaran, powered entirely by solar energy, measures 15m in length and can achieve a top speed of 10 knots. As a research vessel, the MAS carried a range of equipment designed to carry out scientific experiments and observations in a wide and diverse array of different fields, including wave patterns, height of sea level, ocean chemistry, microplastics and marine animals.

The MAS has provided valuable data that will help to further advance autonomous shipping going forward. Commenting on the momentous, groundbreaking journey, a spokesperson for IBM said that the new information gathered could have far-reaching implications for 'shipping and logistics, oil and gas exploration, and security and defense-related industries.'

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