Mayflower: The new autonomus research ship

26 Mar, 2019

It was a voyage that carried the pilgrims across the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean to the New World for the first time and in doing so changed the course of world history forever.

Now a modern version of the sailing of the Mayflower, which carried the carried the English Separatists from Plymouth to America in 1620, is aiming to make a pioneering journey of its own by becoming the world's first full sized unmanned ship to navigate across the Atlantic.

Currently, the Mayflower seems to be in the plans of Plymouth University. It works using solar energy and it will probably sail from England’s Plymouth the year 2020. That is due to the fact that the scientists that have worked on this project are still looking for funds.

It will be 32.5 meters long and 16.8 meters across (106.6 x 55.1 ft), with a glass/aramid/foam composite hull and a carbon composite deck. Using either or both of its two sails, MARS will be able to move at a speed of up to 20 knots (37 km/h or 23 mph). On less breezy days when the sails are automatically stowed belowdeck, its solar-powered electric motor will still take it up to 12.5 knots (23 km/h or 14 mph). The solar cells should be able to generate enough current that if traveling at 5 knots (9 km/h or 6 mph) under motor power, the ship’s range will be unlimited. Some of those cells will be on a folding wing, that will only open under calm sea conditions.There will also be a GPS system in order for the pilots to move the ship and avoid any unfortunate crushes. It may not carry any crew members so the tragedy would not be as big as the Titanic, but it would definitely be a loss of cargo, money and advanced technology.

According to MSubs’ Brett Phaneuf, the crossing could conceivably be completed in 7 to 10 days, although it may end up lasting several months depending on what tasks MARS is put to along the way. Areas of research that it will be conducting include meteorology, oceanography and climatology.

"It is intended to house one or more modular payload bays, much like a Space Shuttle, into which a diverse range of mission equipment will be fitted to support the various research tasks," he tells us. "Equally important, we will be conducting research on renewable energy and propulsion systems for marine vessels, research on the software for automated and autonomous operations for extended duration, advanced satellite communications, and cooperative behaviour between nested automated and autonomous vehicles operating below, on and above the water simultaneously."

An exciting journey, during which we’d like to learn what the ship will discover.