O autonomous ship Mayflower has just left on a journey of no less than 5.630 km across the Atlantic Ocean. The vessel left the town of Plymouth, southwest of the United Kingdom, and will go to Massachusetts, in the United States, in a journey that should last about three weeks. During the voyage, the ship must carry out a series of experiments, collecting data on marine life and samples of plastic waste.

Travel between England and the United States should take about three weeks. Credit: Oliver Dickinson/Promare-IBM

The Mayflower was designed by ProMare, a non-profit ocean research company, in partnership with IBM, which developed the software responsible for controlling the ship.


The trip is part of the official commemorations of 400 years of the journey of the original Mayflower, which led the so-called British “Pilgrims” to establish the first colonies in the so-called New World.

According to its developers, the vessel, also called MAS (Mayflower Autonomous Ship), was created to show the development of maritime navigation technology through the ages, from the era of the Great Navigations, between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, to the present day current.

1620 vs. 2020

Illustration compares the original Mayflower and 2020. Credit: Oliver Dickinson/Promare-IBM

The original Mayflower, which set sail in 1620, was a 30 m three-masted wooden vessel with canvas sails and an average speed of 6 km/h. The vessel could carry up to 102 passengers and another 30 crew. The original crossing from Plymouth to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, took about two months.

The 2020 Mayflower is made with an aluminum composite, and has a solar panel 15 m long and a backup diesel generator to power the batteries. It is capable of reaching up to 20 km/h. The ship is controlled by an onboard artificial intelligence, receiving information from six cameras and 50 sensors. The vessel left Plymouth for the Isles of Scilly last Tuesday (15th) and entered international waters this Wednesday (16th).

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In interview with with the BBC, project director Brett Phaneuf said he was "incredibly nervous". For him, that feeling won't pass for another three weeks, when the Mayflower arrives at its destination. “I know everyone on my team is feeling the same kind of knot in the pit of their stomach. Nobody has finished this type of trip yet, but the weather is perfect for it”, declared Phaneuf. The trip can be followed through the project website MAS400.

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