Mayflower Autonomous Ship to use Iridium to connect on unmanned transatlantic crossing

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) project is to use Iridium satellite communications to provide all connectivity required for its fully autonomous transatlantic crossing, expected to begin in the next few weeks, following the announcement of a new partnership.

Thales Group and Applied Satellite Technology (AST) will also work on the project to deliver real-time communications over the Iridium Certus network for the autonomous research vessel as it sails the same transatlantic route of the original 17th century Mayflower. While at sea the vessel will gather environmental data regarding climate change, ocean acidity and plastic pollution. 

MAS will be equipped with a Thales VesseLINK 700 satcom system, which will be used to remotely manage vessel operations including command and control, tracking, propulsion system diagnostics and other functions. Applied Satellite Technology (AST) will act as the Iridium service provider.

Controlled by an onboard artificial intelligence informally known as AI Captain, developed specifically for the project by IBM and MarineAI, real-time performance feedback, location, and situation awareness data will be transported back to the shore control centre using the onboard terminal.

“The Thales VesseLINK 700 powered by Iridium Certus onboard the Mayflower Autonomous Ship provides essential connectivity to backhaul vital science data in real time from MAS to our team of ocean and climate experts onshore,” said Brett Phaneuf, founding board member, ProMare, and managing director, Mayflower Autonomous Ship.

“Equally important, it lets us check in with the AI Captain to see how it’s coping at sea and making myriad decisions every day to safely navigate the trip across the Atlantic.”

“While the AI Captain won’t need the development team’s help on the crossing, and while the Mayflower won’t miss us one bit, the team in the UK that developed the ship and software is deeply attached and will worry incessantly as the voyage unfolds.”

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About the Author

Rob O'Dwyer
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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