Marie Lou Mella
The Mayflower: The Era of Autonomous Ships
Introducing the first-ever developed artificial intelligence and solar-powered marine research vessel built to gather environmental information: The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS). The MAS is a trimaran that was launched on September 16th, 2020 off the coast of Plymouth, England.
This video summarizes MAS’s general features and functions. ProMare, IBM and a global consortium of partners are behind the two years of design, manufacturing and launching of the vessel. The purpose of the MAS is to gather research information on environmental elements such as marine mammals, micro plastics, sea level height and wave patterns and other oceanographic data. The company has provided online access to a portal with live information of the vessel’s research findings, live location and updates.
Image Source: The Maritime-Executive
What does this mean for the future of the shipping industry?
For the past few years, sustainability has been a key topic in the shipping industry, MAS’s compilation of data will provide us with further insight into the ocean, providing facts and figures to support in depth research regarding: marine mammals, micro plastics, sea level height & wave patterns, oceanographic and environmental data collection.
Furthermore, the MAS 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, IBM UK & 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."
Last but not least, with no crew on board the MAS, we could be seeing an upward trend in crewless vessels, which means a shift in business practices and skillset. If proven a success, the technology transfer provided by the MAS can revolutionize the shipping industry in terms of oceanographic research, sustainability and environmental protection data and remote crews.
September 17, 2020