The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) has encountered a “small mechanical problem” during its transatlantic crossing attempt, and has returned to base in Plymouth, UK, for further investigation.
The crewless, solar-powered marine research vessel – the result of a cross-industry project featuring IBM, ProMare and dozens of other partners – began its voyage on June 15. The attempt, which was expected to take approximately three weeks, would have seen the MAS traverse the ocean from Plymouth in the UK to Plymouth in Massachusetts, USA.
With no human captain or onboard crew, the research vessel uses IBM’s automation, AI and edge computing technologies to assess its status, environment and mission and make decisions about what to do next while at sea.
On June 18, the vessel’s official twitter account confirmed that a mechanical problem had been experienced, and that a safety-first approach meant that the MAS team had opted to return to the UK. Three days later, a rescue vessel arrived, and after a few checks, the trip back to home base began, returning to the UK on June 24.
The mission is designed to forge a cost-effective and flexible platform for gathering data about the ocean, with MAS aiming to help scientists gather the data they need to advance understanding of key global issues affecting ocean health, including ocean acidification, microplastics and marine mammal conservation. One of the pieces of scientific equipment on MAS is Hypertaste – an ‘electronic tongue’ developed by IBM Research.
The project aims to aid the development of fully autonomous AI systems and applications for use in a variety of industries such as shipping, oil and gas, telecommunications, security and defense, fishing and aquaculture.