IBM's autonomous Mayflower ship sets sail across the Atlantic sans crew
IBM's Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS400) has set sail across the Atlantic ocean without a crew or human control. Built and operated in conjunction with ocean research non-profit ProMare and industry partners, the autonomous trimaran left Turnchapel Wharf at Plymouth, England at 4 am GMT on June 15 and is in international waters en route to Plymouth, Massachusetts aiming for initial landfall at Provincetown in about three weeks.
The voyage of the robotic Mayflower follows the path of the original Mayflower, which brought the Pilgrim settlers to New England in 1620. The 50-ft-long (15-m), 20-ft-wide (6.2-m) craft is made of aluminum and carbon composites, displaces five tonnes, and is propelled by a solar-powered hybrid motor with a diesel backup, giving it a top speed of 10 knots (11 mph, 18 km/h).
Supervised by a command center in Plymouth, UK, the Mayflower navigates using over 50 sensors, including six IBM AI Vision cameras and an IBM deep learning system to identify and avoid obstacles, hostile currents, and bad weather while adhering to international navigation rules. Data processing is by onboard computers backed up by an IBM Power Systems AC922 onshore.
Onboard is a scientific payload of 1,500 lb (700 kg) that includes acoustic, nutrient, and temperature sensors, as well as water and air samplers. These are gathering scientific data to help with future studies of ocean chemistry, acidification, sea level height and wave patterns; microplastics; and marine mammal conservation, among other topics. In addition, the autonomous technology could find applications in shipping, oil and gas industries, telecommunications, security, defense, fishing, and aquaculture.
The video below discusses the Mayflower voyage and there is a live webcam available for the public to track the ship's progress.