Nowadays, upon meeting a crewless ship on the waters of the ocean, we immediately jump to dire conclusions. Such a ship might have been plundered by pirates or felled by a calamity. Those who believe in ghost stories might even believe they have stumbled across the infamous Flying Dutchman. However, in the future, another scenario will present itself. The ship might very well be the Mayflower, the first autonomous research ship that is set to sail from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2020.
The Mayflower ship is being developed as part of Project MARS. The project was set into motion through a collaboration between “Plymouth University, autonomous craft specialist MSubs and yacht manufacturer Shuttleworth Design.” The ship will be about 32.5 meters long and 16.8 meters across. It will be able to reach a speed of 20 knots which is equivalent to 37 km/h. Its electric motor is solar powered and will be able to allow the ship unlimited range if it has a speed of about 5 knots. Some of the solar cells are set on a folding wing that is released only during perfect weather conditions. Navigation will combine standard GPS systems with onboard collision-avoidance ones.
Although the crossing could be made in a little more than a week, it could take months until the Mayflower reaches its destination if it is put to other tasks as well.
“It is intended to house one or more modular payload bays, much like a Space Shuttle, into which a diverse range of mission equipment will be fitted to support the various research tasks,” MSubs’ Brett Phaneuf explained. “Equally important, we will be conducting research on renewable energy and propulsion systems for marine vessels, research on the software for automated and autonomous operations for extended duration, advanced satellite communications, and cooperative behaviour between nested automated and autonomous vehicles operating below, on and above the water simultaneously.”
What do you think of the Mayflower project?