Research ship to follow in Mayflower’s wake

A replica of the original Mayflower Photo: flickr A replica of the original Mayflower Photo: flickr

A global consortium is building an unmanned, fully-autonomous research ship that will cross the Atlantic on the fourth centenary of the original Mayflower voyage in September 2020.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) project is coordinated by the University of Plymouth with support from IBM and ProMare. If successful, it 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.

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 (MAS) 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,” he added.

Ocean plastics most worrying

The vessel will carry three research pods containing sensors and scientific instrumentation that will help advance understanding in vital areas such as maritime cybersecurity, marine mammal monitoring, sea level mapping and ocean plastics, which, according to a study conducted on behalf of IBM, is the type of plastic pollution that Brits worry about most.

Also on board is the University of Birmingham which will be responsible for the use of virtual reality technologies on the MAS mission. Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies Team is leading the development of a Mixed Reality Telepresence Science Station which will allow school children and members of the public around the world to experience the transatlantic mission.

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