Back in 1620, the Mayflower, a ship from England transported about 130 people across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. As a token to celebrate its 400th anniversary, an autonomous Mayflower ship is being developed by a non-profit corporation named ProMare.

This new Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will not have any humans on-board. Instead, all the processes will be taken care of by IBM’s AI. The ship will rely on renewable energy sources (solar, wind) for its fuel needs. Solar panels are attached to charge the batteries equipped on the ship.

“MAS will rely to some extent on favourable weather to complete its crossing as it will be powered by state-of-the-art hybrid propulsion system, utilizing wind, solar, state-of-the-art batteries, and a diesel generator.”, wrote ProMare on its description page.

The ship is expected to reach top speeds up to 20 knots (37km/h), which is a huge step up when compared to the original Mayflower’s 2.5 knots (4.5km/h).

Thanks to technical expertise from IBM, MAS will come with a variety of sensors including RADAR and LIDAR for avoiding obstacles. These sensors will work along with IBM’s PowerAI vision to make detections even more accurate.

There will be three research pods containing scientific tools and sensors for conducting studies on ocean conditions, marine pollution and so on. MAS is planned to depart from Plymouth in England to Plymouth, US – a 5,182 kilometers (3,220 miles) voyage on 6th September 2020.

IBM has plans to build AR and VR based tools for the public to view and experience the voyage of MAS in collaboration with the Human Interface Technologies team of the University of Birmingham. However, we will have to wait until next year to see how that turns out.