Unmanned Mayflower solar trimaran aims to cross Atlantic

Mayflower Autoship/Shuttleworth Design

The twin-masted unmanned solar powered trimaran will carry out scientific experiments and research on route cruising at speeds up to 20 knots. The 32.5 meter, 26 metric ton vessel is being developed by the University of Plymouth, charity ProMare, Shuttleworth Design, OceansGate and MSubs, a Plymouth-based submarine and ship builder. Msubs in January released a prototype Multipurpose Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV) for use in sonar mapping.

The Mayflower Autoship project is being funded through Crowdfunder.co.uk. Cost of the project has been estimated at $15 million. The vessel will have unmanned aerial vehicles and life rafts onboard, should a human rescue be added to its tasks. The Atlantic crossing could take place in as little as a week, but scientific missions may extend the voyage for months.

Following the Atlantic crossing, the vessel will be employed for world-wide ocean research. “The ship will collect all manner of oceanographic, meteorological and climitalogical data during its voyage. It will also be able to take water samples for detailed chemical and biological analysis. Moreover, the ship will be a research project unto itself – developing state-of-the-art communications and command & control protocols for autonomous vehicle systems,” a project statement indicates.

According to Professor Kevin Jones, executive dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Plymouth University, states: “MARS (Mayflower Autoship) will be a genuine world-first, and will operate as a research platform, conducting numerous scientific experiments during the course of its voyage. And it will be a test bed for new navigation software and alternative forms of power, incorporating huge advancements in solar, wave and sail technology. As the eyes of the world follow its progress, it will provide a live educational resource to students, a chance to watch, and maybe participate in history in the making.”