Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship to cross Atlantic without a crew

By  - August 14, 2015

If you should encounter a crewless ship out on the Atlantic Ocean in a few years, don’t worry about it being the ghostly Flying Dutchman … it may be the Mayflower, however. No, not the square-rigger that brought Pilgrims to America, but the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS). Plans call for the wind- and solar-powered trimaran to sail itself from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2020 – the 400th anniversary of the original ship’s journey – carrying out a variety of research projects along the way.

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.

Navigation will be via a combination of GPS, and onboard collision-avoidance systems.

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.

Full article here MARS

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Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 15, 2015 at 7:42am

The MARS looks like the "money is no object" version of what some of the ArduBoat members have been trying to accomplish on a somewhat more limited budget:-)



Comment by Bill Bonney on August 15, 2015 at 8:02am

The design sounds like what happens to steam after it leaves my kettle!

Comment by Sam Spade on August 15, 2015 at 8:36am

Having sailed for up to a week at a stretch in a small sailboat in the open ocean, it sounds like one of my nightmares: Being run down by a zombie doing 20 knots.

Comment by technicus acityone on August 15, 2015 at 8:52am

Flying Dutchman ...

Comment by bigkahuna on August 15, 2015 at 2:15pm

As a mariner the whole subject of "unmanned vessels" at sea is a bit unnerving.  There's enough ship and boat traffic out there (even out of the shipping lanes) that a ship's crew needs to maintain a vigilant watch in order to prevent collisions.  Add a ship with no crew and you're just asking for trouble.  I just hope the owners of this thing have deep enough pockets to pay for all the lawsuits they'll face when a collision occurs.

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 15, 2015 at 3:26pm


How about those semi-submerged shipping containers that have fallen off a container ship?



Comment by bigkahuna on August 15, 2015 at 5:44pm

@Thomas - Good point.  There is so much debris in the Pacific right now (largely from dumped trash and the disaster in Japan) that crossing the ocean has become even dangerous.

I suspect that unmanned ocean going vessels will likely trigger new legislation, just as we are now seeing with unmanned aircraft.

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on August 16, 2015 at 1:50am

It will have a collision avoidance system but only for those onboard...

Comment by Sam Spade on August 16, 2015 at 5:15am
@Rabbitt: Please explain more about your anti-collision system. How will it avoid running down my fibreglass sailboat at 3 am when it is doing 20 knots and I am just ghosting along? I know my family would like to know.
Comment by Quadrocopter on August 16, 2015 at 1:53pm

@Sam Spade, If your sailing at 3am with your family and you don't have a radar reflector mounted, then you shouldn't be sailing. I have lived on the water for 10 years and sailed most of the planet.

Radar reflectors are only 50 bucks and work very well.

This is what i used, mounted to the second set of spreaders :-)



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