Mayflower 400: Fully automated ship interrupts Atlantic crossing

The unmanned trimaran Mayflower 400 has to interrupt the first Atlantic crossing of a fully autonomous ship in the second attempt for the time being. Because of “a mechanical problem with the generator”, the ship should be taken to the Azores and examined, said those responsible. They hope to repair the generator and then resume the Atlantic crossing. The technology provided by IBM for autonomous pathfinding is not affected. Unlike the first attempt, the Mayflower managed at least half the distance to North America on the second attempt. Whether it will continue remains to be seen.

The full name of the fully autonomous ship is Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS400). Without any hype, the ship left the UK at the end of April and was scheduled to reach Washington, DC on its own. The trimaran is 15 meters long and the result of a cooperation between IBM and the Austrian association for the promotion of marine research Promare. According to those responsible, it is able to scan the horizon for possible dangers, make decisions on its own and change its course based on live data, even without an online connection. The onboard computer has to process incoming data from the cameras, radar, depth gauge, position and weather data in real time.

The autonomous ship was originally supposed to embark on its journey in 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Atlantic crossing of the original Mayflower with the “Pilgrim Fathers” of the USA, but the corona pandemic got in the way. The first attempt last year was aborted shortly after it started due to a technical problem in the diesel engine, which is actually only on board as a backup. The ship is primarily powered by solar energy. The dashboard, on which the current status of the ship and images from several webcams can actually be viewed, is currently mostly empty. But you can see that the battery level has dropped to 42 percent


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