A 50-foot trimaran was launched in the port of Plymouth in the U.K. in late September. While 50 feet doesn’t usually a ship make, the group behind this vessel is calling it the Mayflower Autonomous Ship. This version of the original Mayflower is designed to sail transatlantic without any human intervention. A joint project of IBM and the marine design firm ProMare, the vessel is said to be a demonstrator of what autonomous vessels can do using current technology. The Mayflower AS was scheduled to make the crossing this summer, but complications caused by the pandemic have delayed its progress. The official start of the captainless, crewless vessel’s transatlantic crossing has been pushed back to the spring of 2021. It will use sail power for propulsion and also have a diesel generator on board for providing electrical power to run the vessel’s systems.
According to a quote that appeared on MarineLink.com, Mayflower AS is “Able to scan the horizon for possible hazards, make informed decisions and change its course based on a fusion of live data, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship has more in common with a modern bank than its 17th-century namesake,” said Andy Stanford-Clark, Chief Technology Officer for IBM in the U.K. and Ireland. “With its ability to keep running in the face of the most challenging conditions, this small ship is a microcosm for every aspiring 21st-century business.”
For oceangoing sailors, this vessel is nothing more than a technology publicity stunt. No one would actually want to “cross the Atlantic” while sitting ashore and watching on a video screen, would they? Considering the widespread use of smart devices and social media, maybe we don’t want to know the answer to that question!