Skip to main content


Thursday, October 17, 2019  (Comments: 1)

IBM has joined a consortium, led by US-based marine research organisation ProMare, that is building an unmanned, fully-autonomous ship that will cross the Atlantic.

The ship is intended to make the voyage in September 2020, between Plymouth, UK and Plymouth, Mass, US, to commemorate the fourth centenary of the Pilgrim Fathers voyage, and will be named Mayflower, in honour of the original sailing vessel.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will use IBM’s servers, AI, cloud and edge computing technologies to navigate autonomously and avoid ocean hazards. If successful, it will be one of the first self-navigating, full-sized vessels to cross the Atlantic Ocean, opening 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 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.”

The vessel will carry three research pods containing an array of sensors and scientific instrumentation that scientists will use to advance understanding in a number of vital areas such as maritime cybersecurity, marine mammal monitoring, sea level mapping and ocean plastics. The work will be coordinated by the UK’s University of Plymouth with support from IBM and ProMare.

The University of Birmingham will be responsible for the use of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies in the MAS mission. IBM is helping ProMare to build deep learning models capable of recognising navigation hazards which come into view in the MAS’s on-board video cameras. Trained on real data and images from the Plymouth Sound in the UK, MAS will be capable of recognising hazards such as buoys, debris and other ships and will have constant situational awareness thanks to Radar, AIS and LIDAR, as used in autonomous road vehicles.

When a hazard is detected, MAS will use IBM’s Operational Decision Manager software to help decide autonomously whether to change course or, in case of emergencies, speed out of the way drawing additional power from its on-board back-up generator. Fusing data from maritime maps, sensors and weather forecasts, MAS will be able to determine the optimal path and speed it should take across the Atlantic.

The hull of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship is currently being constructed in Gdansk, Poland by Aluship Technology, before being transported to Plymouth, UK later this year.

Reader Comments (1)

Congratulation, it is great development in marine industry , I wish you the best and success at the end

By Mir Hamid Fattahi on Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Leave Your Comment

Please keep your comment on topic, any inappropriate comments may be removed.

Return to index

Web Analytics