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Mayflower Autonomous Ship to cross the Atlantic in 2020


masPlymouth University, together with autonomous marine vessel company MSubs, and the award winning design studio Shuttleworth Design, aim to recreate the historic Mayflower voyages from Plymouth to North America with the 32.5-metre Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS).
Shuttleworth Design is designing and building scale models of the boat, to be tested at Plymouth University: the vessel will then be built by MSubs and tested before launch and her historic voyage in 2020.
MAS is a trimaran: a multi-hull configuration provides the most efficient hull form for low speed motoring, as the outer hulls help reduce resistance by 8% while the main hull allows waves to break through the vessel and reduce impact. It has been developed according to the special requirement to reduce windage, while keeping the solar array sufficiently high above the water to reduce wave impact.
MAS will be powered by state-of-the-art wind and solar technology for its propulsion, enabling an unlimited range. The solar cell required for effective motoring is too large to fit on the trimaran, so the hull system has been developed to increase the solar cell area by 40% in calm conditions. Top speed expected for the unmanned trimaran is of 20 knots in calm weather.
After a year of testing phase, MAS will sail across the Atlantic in 2020, to mark the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower sailing across the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The vessel will carry on board various drones through which it will conduct meteorological, oceanographic, and climate data research and experiments during its voyage. The boat itself will help with gathering research on using renewable energy systems for marine vessels.
The project is part of Plymouth University’s ‘Shape the Future’ fundraising Campaign, and is expected to cost an estimated £12 million, with initial funding from the university, MSubs, and the ProMare Foundation.
“MAS has the potential to be a genuine world-first, and will operate as a research platform, conducting numerous scientific experiments during the course of its voyage. And it will be a test bed for new navigation software and alternative forms of power, incorporating huge advancements in solar, wave and sail technology. As the eyes of the world follow its progress, it will provide a live educational resource to students – a chance to watch, and maybe participate in history in the making.” – Professor Kevin Jones, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University
The voyage across the Atlantic could take 7-10 days with optimal wind conditions, and once the initial crossing has been completed, the MAS could then be sent to circumnavigate the globe to continue its research and testing.
MSubs Managing Director Brett Phaneuf  so commented the disparity between air- and land-based autonomous vehicles, and what is being done in the marine sector: “The civilian maritime world has, as yet, been unable to harness the autonomous drone technology that has been used so effectively in situations considered unsuitable for humans. It begs the question, if we can put a rover on Mars and have it autonomously conduct research, why can’t we sail an unmanned vessel across the Atlantic Ocean and, ultimately, around the globe? That’s something we are hoping to answer with MAS.”