The United Kingdom’s Plymouth University has undergone a move that may potentially reshape the whole landscape of the shipping industry by launching a project for constructing a full-sized and fully-autonomous vessel. The Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS) is currently in development in a co-op effort with Shuttleworth Design and MSubs, who are responsible for bringing a fair share of knowledge to the table regarding yacht design and autonomous vessels respectively. According to Plymouth University, this projects is the first of its kind.

Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship

Expectations are for MARS to be constructed in two and a half years and for it to sail across the Atlantic later on in 2020 following a one year trial period. The year 2020 was chosen for the crossing due to the fact that it is the 400th anniversary marking the sailing of Mayflower from Plymouth en route to North America. The ship is going to follow the original Mayflower route.

The brand new ship is going to be a trimaran powered via the use of renewable energy. It is going to function in the role of a research platform and conduct numerous scientific experiments during the duration of its trip. MARS is going to be equipped with several drones which are also going to be used for various experiments and will serve for testing and developing new navigation software and alternative energy. The trimaran is going to also be employed as a live educational resource regarding students that are going to have the opportunity of watching it as it progresses.

“Technology advances and breakthroughs may have contributed for propelling land and air-based transport to never-before-seen levels of intelligent autonomy, but it is an entirely different story when it comes to sea-orientated transport. The shipping industry has not yet tapped into the many benefits of the autonomous drone technology that is greatly employed in unsuitable situations for humans. The shipping industry has generally continued its conservative course, its diesel engines that pump out carbon emissions and its manned crews that are placed at risk from piracy,” commented Plymouth University via a statement.

Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship

Shuttleworth Design is still in the developing process of design concepts regarding the MARS project, and it is going to prepare scale soon for conducting trials at the Marine Building of Plymouth University. Plymouth University has high hopes of establishing itself in the role of a major contributor when it comes to marine research and innovations in the shipping industry.

The project is to be initially funded by Plymouth University, the ProMare foundation, MSubs and by various corporate and private sponsors.

Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship 1

Images: Plymoth University