Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Mayflower Autonomous Ship sails back after developing a fault

After a number of delays, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) finally set sail on Tuesday last week on a 3,500-mile (5,630km) journey from Plymouth in the UK to Massachusetts in the US. Unfortunately, however, the crewless ship failed to recreate the Mayflower’s historic journey across the Atlantic 400 years ago. Just a few days after Mayflower left the port in British Plymouth, it was announced that the boat was now on its way back after developing a fault.

The Mayflower 400 is a solar-powered trimaran weighing five tons, 15 meters long, and 6.2 meters wide. It can move at a speed of up to 10 knots (20km/h). It is being navigated by onboard artificial intelligence (AI) developed by IBM with information from six cameras and 50 sensors.

Like the original Mayflower, the trimaran was about to cross the Atlantic and dock in the US, collecting information on ocean acidification, microplastics, and marine mammal conservation along the way. The voyage to the US was supposed to take about three weeks.

The non-profit organization ProMare, which together with IBM developed the Mayflower 400, says the boat had “just a minor mechanical issue,” which limited the speed. As there is no crew on board the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, it must now return to base to “investigate and fix a minor mechanical issue.”

Even the original Mayflower, which carried Pilgrim settlers to New England, had to return to its homeport twice before finally succeeding in crossing the Atlantic. The crossing in 1620 took more than two months.

The team hopes to be back on the trans-Atlantic journey as soon as possible.