Sleek new AI 'Mayflower' to cross Atlantic on 400th anniversary of Pilgrims' voyage

The sleek new Mayflower will recreate the original ship’s 5,150-km voyage. IBM Newsroom/ Public domain (insert)

A Gdańsk shipbuilder is building the hull for a new Mayflower ship which will sail across the Atlantic in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s epic 5,150-km voyage to America.

Although bearing the same name as the English ship which set sail for the New World in 1620, the modern version will have neither captain, crew nor passengers. 

Instead, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship will use an ‘AI Captain’ designed by IBM to self-navigate across the ocean.

The futuristic Mayflower is currently under construction at the Aluship shipyard in Gdańsk and will be 15 metres long and hit a top speed of 10 knots per hour.IBM Newsroom

Goetz Linzenmeier, Founder and Chairman of Aluship said: "One common thing on both projects was really a sense of adventure. The original Mayflower had people believing in a special future and putting their lives at risk. 

 “In this new Mayflower this is also a technological adventure with a highly-sophisticated trimaran (yacht with 3 hulls) with an even more sophisticated interior,  fortunately no life is at risk.”

Gdańsk shipyard’s Aluship was chosen as the hull manufacturer at the end of last year and joined IBM, the University of Plymouth and project leaders ProMare, an American NGO established in 2001 with the aim of promoting marine research and exploration throughout the world.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship will have neither captain nor crew but will instead use an ‘AI Captain’ designed by IBM to self-navigate across the ocean.IBM Newsroom

Aluship technology is renowned for their aluminium frames and have previously contributed sections to megayachts, superstructures to cruise ships and offshore constructions.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will set sail on 6th September 2020 from Plymouth, England to commemorate the anniversary of the original voyage.

The ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States after the Pilgrims who set sail from Plymouth in England founded the Plymouth Colony in what became New England.

While the original journey took just over 60 days the new fully autonomous Mayflower will make the crossing in an estimated 12 days.

The original Mayflower has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States after the Pilgrims who set sail from Plymouth in England founded the Plymouth Colony in what became New England.Public domain

It will be the first full sized autonomous ship to cross the Atlantic and, powered by a hybrid propulsion system, utilizing wind and solar power with a back-up diesel generator, will be able to travel at up to 10 knots per hour. 

The modern ship is half the size the original at 15 metres in length and at five tons it weighs just a fraction of the original ships 180 tons. 

Goetz Linzenmeier, Founder and Chairman of Aluship said: "One common thing on both projects was really a sense of adventure. The original Mayflower had people believing in a special future and putting their lives at risk". Goetz Linzenmeier/Facebook

The next three to four months will involve the MAS being fitted out with the most advanced technology available.

The vessel will not only be equipped with the ‘AI Captain’ from IBM but will also benefit from state-of-the-art inertial navigation and precision GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) positioning system, oceanographic and meteorological instruments, SATCOM, RADAR and also LIDAR technology.

While the original journey took just over 60 days the new fully autonomous Mayflower will make the crossing in an estimated 12 days.IBM Newsroom

Don Scott, CTO of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, said: "While the autonomous shipping market is set to grow from $90 billion today to over $130 billion by 2030, many of today's autonomous ships are really just automated robots which do not dynamically adapt to new situations and rely heavily on operator override.

“Using an integrated set of IBM's AI, cloud, and edge technologies, we are aiming to give the Mayflower the ability to operate independently in some of the most challenging circumstances on the planet."

With solar panels covering its aluminium hulls, and powered by a hybrid propulsion system, utilizing wind and solar power with a back-up diesel generator, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship will be the first full sized autonomous ship to cross the Atlantic.IBM Newsroom

The team are hoping to begin sea testing the completed unit in July and August, giving them time to make any adjustments before the anniversary in September.

“The journey from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the American East coast will likely take the ship close to the wreckage of the Titanic but in 2020 it is unlikely to meet any icebergs.

To see more about the new Mayflower click HERE.