Mayflower Autonomous Ship begins trials ahead of unmanned Atlantic voyage

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), an AI and solar powered marine research vessel, has taken to the water to begin sea trials ahead of its unmanned transatlantic voyage following the route taken by the original Mayflower in 1620.

Following two years of design, construction and training of its AI models, the fully-autonomous trimaran has now been lifted into the waters off the coast of Plymouth, England, as it prepares to spend the next six months undertaking various research missions before attempting to cross the Atlantic in Spring 2021.

The new-generation Mayflower will work in tandem with scientists and other autonomous vessels to provide oceanographic data on issues such as global warming, micro-plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. The project has been co-ordinated by ocean research non-profit ProMare, working alongside technology company IBM and a number of scientific organisations.

The new Mayflower features a purpose-built AI Captain which gives the vessel the ability to sense, think and make decisions at sea with no human captain or onboard crew. The marine AI is underpinned by IBM’s latest edge computing systems, automation software, computer vision technology and Red Hat Open Source software.

“Able to scan the horizon for possible hazards, make informed decisions and change its course based on a fusion of live data, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship has more in common with a modern bank than its 17th century namesake,” said Andy Stanford-Clark, Chief Technology Officer, IBM UK & Ireland.

“With its ability to keep running in the face of the most challenging conditions, this small ship is a microcosm for every aspiring 21st century business.”

A new interactive web portal has been built at to allow members of the public to follow real-time updates about the ship’s location, environmental conditions and data from its various research projects.

“ is one of the most advanced ocean mission web portals ever built,” said Fredrik Soreide, Scientific Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project and Board Member of ProMare.

“Protecting the ocean depends on our ability to engage the public in important matters affecting its health. This MAS400 portal is designed to do exactly that and tell people where the ship is, what speed it’s travelling at, what conditions it’s operating in and what science we are conducting.”

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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