Self-Navigating AI ship to make 3,000-mile journey across Atlantic

The vessel will be able to “autonomously avoid ocean hazards” such as buoys and other ships

The vessel will be completely run by AI (Image: SUPPLIED)

An unmanned, fully-autonomous vessel will be one of the first to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean, it has been announced.

Computer giants IBM revealed today they are creating the state-of-the-art Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) with the hope of it setting sail in September 2020 to mark the fourth centenary of the original Mayflower voyage.

It will use IBM’s servers, AI, cloud and edge-computing technologies to navigate and avoid ocean hazards from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, US.

If successful, MAS will be one of the first self-navigating, full-sized vessels to cross the Atlantic Ocean and opens the door on a new era of autonomous research ships.

Several solar panels can be seen on the top of the vessel, giving it its power.

There are three rudders and a Union Jack sail while – to reflect the symbolism of the voyage – a reflection of the original Mayflower ship can be seen in the water.

The aim of the project – which is being run in partnership marine research organisation ProMare and The University of Plymouth – is to advance understanding of “maritime cybersecurity, marine mammal monitoring, sea level mapping and ocean plastics”.

“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,” said Brett Phaneuf, Founding Board Member of ProMare and Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project.

“With this project, we are pioneering a cost-effective and flexible platform for gathering data that will help safeguard the health of the ocean and the industries it supports.”

The vessel will carry three research pods containing an array of sensors and scientific instrumentation.

MAS will be able to recognise hazards such as buoys, debris and other ships thanks to RADAR, AIS (Automated Identification Systems) and LIDAR – the same technology used in autonomous cars.

The vessel features state-of-the art IBM software (Image: SUPPLIED)

When these hazards are detected, the boat will use IBM’s Operational Decision Manager software to decide whether to change course or speed out of the way by drawing additional power from its onboard back-up generator.

One of the main purposes of MAS will be to understand more about the origin, distribution of microplastics in the ocean.

According to a study conducted by One Poll on behalf of IBM, more Brits are concerned about plastics in the ocean than any other form of plastic pollution and 80% are worried about microplastics ending up in the food we eat.

“IBM helped mankind land on the moon and is excited by the challenge of using advanced technologies to cross and research oceans,” said Andy Stanford-Clark, Chief Technology Officer, IBM UK.

“By providing the brains for the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, we are pushing the boundaries of science and autonomous technologies for the good of the world.”

Experts from the University of Birmingham will also be on board and will be responsible for the use of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies in the mission.

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