Unmanned robotic ship Mayflower arrives at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts after retracing 1620 voyage
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An unmanned robotic boat retracing the Mayflower’s 1620 sea voyage has landed near Plymouth Rock.
The sleek, self-contained Mayflower encountered an escort boat as it approached the Massachusetts shore on Thursday, more than 400 years after its namesake’s historic voyage from England.
It was towed into Plymouth Harbor – under US Coast Guard rules for bareboats – and moored near a replica of the original Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to America.
Piloted by artificial intelligence technology, the 50-foot trimaran had no captain, navigator or human on board.
AUTONOMOUS MAYFLOWER COMES TO NORTH AMERICA
The solar-powered ship’s first attempt to cross the Atlantic in 2021 has been beset with technical problems, forcing it to return to its home port of Plymouth, England – the same place from which the Pilgrim settlers sailed in 1620.
He set out again from the English southwest coast in April, but mechanical difficulties diverted him to the Portuguese islands of the Azores and then to Canada.
« When you don’t have anyone on board, obviously you can’t make the necessary mechanical and physical fixes, » said Rob High, a software manager at IBM who helped work on the project. « It’s also part of the learning process. »
On Monday, the ship departed Halifax, Nova Scotia for a successful 4-day voyage to Plymouth Harbour.
The non-profit marine research organization ProMare worked with IBM to build the ship and used it to collect data on whales, microplastic pollution and for other scientific research. Small experimental autonomous vessels have crossed the Atlantic before, but researchers describe it as the first vessel of its size to do so.
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Completing the voyage « means we can begin to analyze data from the ship’s voyage » and dig deeper into the performance of the AI system, High said.
High added that the prospect of such unmanned vessels sailing the seas continuously will make it easier to collect « all kinds of things that marine scientists are interested in. »