IBM joined today a global alliance, led by marine research organization ProMare, which is developing an unmanned, fully-autonomous ship that will sail in a 12-day voyage through the Atlantic in September 2020, powered by wind and solar energy.
Specifically, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will use IBM’s AI, advanced servers to navigate autonomously and avoid ocean hazards as it makes its way from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts.
A new Mayflower will set sail 400 years after the historic voyage, this time using AI and other advanced technologies.
If the voyage of the autonomous vessel is successful, it will be one of the first self-navigating, full-sized vessels to cross the Atlantic Ocean and will open the door on a new era of autonomous research ships.
Moreover, the vessel will be equipped with three research pods containing an array of sensors and scientific instrumentation that scientists will use to advance understanding in a number of vital areas such as maritime cybersecurity, marine mammal monitoring, sea level mapping and ocean plastics.
Partnering in the project are IBM, ProMare and the University of Plymouth, UK, with the latter being active in the technological game, as in summer it launched the Smart Sound Plymouth, a proving area for designing, testing and developing cutting edge products and services for the advanced marine sector.
As stated above, MAS will be able to detect ocean hazards; This means that the vessel will use IBM’s Operational Decision Manager software to help decide autonomously whether to change course or, in case of emergencies, speed out of the way drawing additional power from its on-board back-up generator.
The hull of the autonomous ship is currently being constructed and outfitted in Gdansk, Poland by Aluship Technology, before being transported to Plymouth, UK later this year.
Brett Phaneuf, a Founding Board Member of ProMare and Co-Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project stated that
Putting a research ship to sea can cost tens of thousands of dollars or pounds a day and is limited by how much time people can spend onboard – a prohibitive factor for many of today’s marine scientific missions.
Additionally, One Poll conducted a study on behalf of IBM in the UK, under which Brits are concerned over plastics in the ocean, in comparison to any other form of plastic pollution. As a result, the University will develop a research to advance understanding in this area, analyzing water samples from MAS as it sails across the Atlantic to understand more about the origin, distribution and potential impact of microplastics in the ocean.