400 years after the Mayflower merchant ship made its historic voyage from England to America across the Atlantic Ocean, the futuristic trimaran of the same name set sail on a similar route. The difference is that this time there are no people on board, replaced by radars, sensors and AI algorithms that allow the ship to navigate in space and move in a given direction.
The trimaran was created jointly by IBM and Promare, a non-profit marine research organization. The 15-meter autonomous boat set sail off the coast of Plymouth, England at the beginning of last week. Over the next few weeks, she was supposed to cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach the shores of American Plymouth, where in 1620 the first colonialists from England founded a settlement.
It was assumed that during the voyage Mayflower will collect climate data, as well as information on ocean pollution from plastic waste. However, soon there was “Minor mechanical problem”, which was enough for Promare to temporarily interrupt the mission and give the trimaran a command to return to the starting point.
According to the available data, the boat managed to overcome about 550 km since the beginning of the voyage, which is approximately equal to a tenth of the route. The problem was revealed when experts noticed that the trimaran was moving about twice as slow as it should. It is suspected that the problem may be related to the breakdown of one of the parts related to the standby diesel engine.
The autonomous Mayflower began to be built in 2018 and launched last fall. The vessel weighs five tons and is powered by a solar-powered hybrid electric motor that can accelerate the trimaran to 10 knots. The robotic vessel is operated by the AI Captain onboard system, which uses computer vision, automation software and Watson technology for decision making. Within the framework of this project, British Promare invested about $ 1 million, and IBM and several other partners were responsible for the technical equipment of the vessel.
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