Crewless Mayflower makes second trans-Atlantic bid

(NEW YORK) — The Mayflower autonomous ship (MAS400) is in international waters as it attempts to cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach the United States, ocean research nonprofit ProMare and IBM announced Saturday.

The ship departed from Turnchapel Wharf, Plymouth, United Kingdom, at 5:30 a.m. BST on April 27. The journey across the Atlantic, the second attempt by MAS400, is expected to take approximately three weeks. If successful, the vessel is expected to land in Virginia, then make its way to Washington, D.C.

IBM photo

With no human captain or onboard crew, the research vessel uses IBM’s automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing technologies to assess its status, environment and mission and make decisions about what to do next while at sea. People from all over the world can follow the ship’s progress via the mission dashboard which includes live video provided by Videosoft, maps and data streaming.

The project is the result of years of work and a global collaboration between ProMare, IBM and dozens of partners from across industry and academia. Designed to forge a cost-effective and flexible platform for gathering data about the ocean, MAS400 will help scientists gather the data they need to advance understanding of key global issues affecting ocean health including ocean acidification and marine mammal conservation. The science projects on board are spearheaded by IBM, Promare, MarineAI and four universities. One of the pieces of scientific equipment on MAS is Hypertaste – an “electronic tongue” developed by IBM Research.

The project aims to aid the development of fully autonomous AI systems and applications for use in a variety of industries such as shipping, oil and gas, telecommunications, security and defense, fishing and aquaculture.

The pioneering mission is the second attempt at a trans-Atlantic crossing. The first attempt, in June 2021, was halted following a mechanical issue with the hybrid propulsion system.


By Rich Miller