Robot Mayflower with an AI captain and no crew is set to cross the Atlantic 400 years after its famous namesake

  • The new Mayflower could be the first fully autonomous vessel to cross Atlantic
  • AI Captain will pilot the ship on its voyage from Britain to the United States
  • Hull designed in Gdansk, Poland, is being transported to Plymouth today

Four centuries after the original Mayflower carried British settlers to the United States, a new, crewless ship is preparing to set sail under the same banner.

The voyage, due to begin in September, will be piloted by an AI captain and could become the first full-sized, fully autonomous vessel to cross the Atlantic.

A hull designed in Gdansk, Poland, set off by road for Plymouth on Tuesday, where the final works will be completed.  

Workers in Gdansk, Poland, have built the hull of a crewless vessel that will sail across the Atlantic from Britain to America to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage in 1620

This computer generated image shows what the autonomous Mayflower could look like as it crosses the Atlantic in September 

Once the ship launched, organisers IBM and marine research group Promare hope for the crewless vessel to navigate itself along the same route the Mayflower would have used 400 years ago.

‘One common thing on both projects was really a sense of adventure. The original Mayflower had people believing in a special future and putting their lives at risk,’ said Goetz Linzenmeier, chairman and founder of Aluship, which built the hull.

‘In this new Mayflower this is also a technological adventure, fortunately no life is at risk.’

The original Mayflower was a wooden, commercial, lightly-armed sailing vessel. The new Mayflower is a ‘highly-sophisticated trimaran with an even more sophisticated interior,’ he added.

Come September the new Mayflower will set sail from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

When the original ship set sail in 1620, the journey would have taken crew and passengers around 60 days. This new vessel should make the crossing in 12. 

The Mayflower – 1620

The original Mayflower was built in Harwich, North Essex

Journey time: 60 days 

Speed: 5 knots (max)

Length: 30m 

Weight: 180 tons

Propulsion: Wind (three masts)

Crew: 30

Passengers: 102 

Navigation system: A compass, an hourglass, nautical charts and a logline 

Mission: Carry pilgrims from England to the New World.  

 Source: IBM

The Mayflower – 2020


The hull of the new Mayflower was built in Gdansk, Poland, the rest will be installed in Plymouth before it sets sail

Journey time: 12 days

Speed: 10 knots (max) 

Length: 15m 

Weight: 5 tons 

Propulsion A hybrid of wind and solar energy, with diesel backup generator  

Crew: 0

Passengers: 0  

Navigation system: Motion and rotation sensors, Global Navigation Satellite System  

Mission: Research our oceans and  pioneer a new generation of research ships.

Source: IBM 


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