Autonomous vessel Mayflower (computer graphics)
Mayflower Autonomous Ship (CGI) (University of Birmingham Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team)

400 years after the famous Mayflower, another ship of the same name will be christened on Wednesday September 16 in Plymouth, Great Britain. Special feature: it is fully autonomous. In the spring of 2020, it will link Plymouth to the United States, in the footsteps of its illustrious predecessor.

franceinfo: What does the Mayflower of 2020 look like?


Eric Aquaronne, Head of Hardware Product Strategy at IBM : It is a trimaran approximately 15 meters long and 8 wide, entirely covered with photovoltaic cells to recharge the batteries and power the electric motors. It is also equipped with a bio-diesel engine ready to take over in case there is not enough sunlight to power the electric drive.

How does an autonomous boat work?

Unlike an autonomous car, an autonomous boat checks its surroundings only every second. It is equipped with radars, cameras, AIS satellite beacons and sonars. The sea is a very difficult environment, more dangerous than space, and the boat must be able to avoid obstacles which can be containers lost by boats, animals like whales or even other boats, including people who would be interested in the autonomous boat. The Mayflower is equipped with IBM technologies created in France, in Sofia Antipolis. The system was trained by a former Lieutenant-Commander.


What is an autonomous boat used for?

This boat has two missions: on the one hand, to test the technology and, on the other hand, to carry out scientific research analyzes, such as the salinity of the water, the level of the waves or the sound of marine mammals. This is easier than with large non-autonomous boats.

To see: official website of the Mayflower mission