PROMARE/IBM - MAYFLOWER

 

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MILITARY DEAL - MSubs has just (Sept 2020) signed a £2 million pound deal to create a robot sub for the Royal Navy and has produced unmanned submersibles for the US military, we presume, using similar technology. Warmongering apart, the good news is that the technology is suitable for civilian ships of the future, in the fight against global warming.

 

The world's gaze was on Plymouth as leaders come together for the landmark launch of the Mayflower 2 Autonomous Ship from the Barbican for Mayflower 400. US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson was in Britain's Ocean City marking the incredible historic departure (actually launch) of the Mayflower for the New World.

He is in town this afternoon to launch the new vessel, the Mayflower 2 – one of the first full-sized fully autonomous ships to be capable of crossing the Atlantic using wind and solar power. The Ambassador hails the project in a special article written for today’s Western Morning News as an example of Britain and America working together to push the boundaries of science and build trading links.

 

 

According to many website(s), the Mayflower is £1 million pound boat powered by AI and the energy from the sun, but also (rather confusingly) has a diesel engine onboard. This Autonomous Ship, a trimaran similar to the Nigel Irens, Cable and Wireless Adventurer (diesel powered) in design - only smaller, will be able to spend long durations at sea collecting critical data about the ocean thanks to solar panels - and possibly - a small wing sail - not yet fitted.

 

 

 

KEY POINTS - 1. The solar-powered research boat will aim to traverse the Atlantic Ocean in 2021 with no humans on board. 2. Sea trials are due to commence off the south coast of England in late 2020. 3. The Mayflower was officially unveiled on September 16th 2020, the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower departure. In our view this is a very important project in terms of unmanned, autonomous, navigation.

 

 

Crucially, Mayflower is much larger than the Scout from 2013 and Solar Voyager, a kayak from 2015/16, hence, armed with a veritable army of AI sensors, stands an excellent chance of succeeding in its mission. The Scout managed about half way across the Atlantic, before the team lost comms - and they had rudder problems. Scout was coming from the US to the UK. The Voyager managed about a quarter of the planned voyage.

 

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is in our view a superb project that will advance the art, such that others might enjoin and enjoy the 'AI Captain' technology for marine navigation purposes. An autonomous circumnavigation of the globe was first proposed in 2012/13 by Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd., now a dormant company. A developed form of IBM's AI Captain may make such a proposal a reality for other teams with similar ambition, such as the Cleaner Ocean Foundation, where they took up the torch from Bluebird Marine.

 

 

 

 

 

We like the naming of the 'Mayflower' project, though somewhat tenuous in that this is a crew and passenger less boat (not really a ship because of its boat size), but at least it involved Plymouth as the launch platform and an authentic destination in the US. 

 

Working in tandem with human oceanographers and other autonomous vessels, the new-generation Mayflower provides a flexible and cost-effective option for deepening understanding of critical issues such as global warming, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation, such as whales.

 

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship is led by marine research organisation Promare, supported by IBM and a global consortium of partners. See below for more details.

 

 

 

 

World record trimaran Cable & Wireless Adventurer

 

AUTONOMOUS CONCEPT: It seems from the specifications that unlike the Cable & Wireless Adventurer, the Mayflower is not designed to break any speed records - despite its racy looks - but is more a floating IT station, bristling with a veritable army of computers and sensors. The hull is solid state, inasmuch as there are no moving parts to aid the harvesting of energy from nature. 

 

 

CNBC NEWS SEPT 11 2020, LONDON

Humans aren’t the only ones to have had their travel plans ruined by the coronavirus. A robot-powered boat that was due to cross the Atlantic this month has been forced to delay its voyage until next April after the virus caused complications in its development.

The autonomous 15-meter trimaran has been built to push the boundaries of autonomous shipping while gathering scientific data on the ocean. The Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MAS for short) is being led by marine research organization ProMare, while IBM is the main technology partner.

The solar-powered vessel is set to start trials off the south coast of England in the coming weeks and it will be officially unveiled on Sep. 16, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower departure in 1620. After that, it will go on several voyages and missions over the next six months ahead of a transatlantic voyage in April 2021.

 

 

 

 

During that transatlantic crossing, the ultramodern ship will broadly retrace the Mayflower’s original route from Plymouth to Cape Cod’s Provincetown.

Andy Stanford-Clark, chief technology officer for IBM U.K. and Ireland, who’s leading the science on the ship, told CNBC that the vessel relies on an onboard AI Captain which uses computer vision, automation software and Watson technology — IBM’s most notable AI platform. 

The ship’s operators tell the Mayflower where they want it to go and then it will figure out how to get there itself, considering the weather, ocean currents, collision regulations and other variables. The Mayflower can also react to ocean traffic in real time using a combination of radar, cameras, and the Automated Identification System (AIS), which transmits information such as the Mayflower’s latitude and longitude to other boats.

While AI does not control every aspect of the Mayflower, it does play a significant role in the ship’s operations. 

 

 

 

 

ONBOARD EXPERIMENTS

Inside the boat, instead of there being crew, living quarters, a bathroom, a galley, beds and so on, there are science experiments.

Various organizations have pitched experiments that they’d like the Mayflower to carry out while at sea.

One of them is a water analysis experiment that samples the seawater every few hours and stores it in roughly 100 bottles that are capped and kept in a crate onboard ready for human inspection back on land. “Because we’ll know exactly where in the ocean we took the sample, we can say at this point, the salinity was this, the algal bloom quantity was this, the pH was this, and the oxygen levels were this,” said Stanford-Clark.

Scientists at the U.K.’s Plymouth University will analyze the same samples to determine microplastic levels at various points in the ocean.

IBM claims it has also developed a system that can identify whales and the pod they’re from based on their song, which is picked up by an onboard hydrophone. “We’re training an AI to listen for whale songs,” said Stanford-Clark. The same hydrophone is used to listen out for faults on the Mayflower.

There’s another project that will involve analyzing the shape of the Earth. “We’re going to use very accurate GPS to measure exactly the level of the ocean, and then subtract the tides and the weather and the wind and use that to get a unified model,” said Stanford-Clark.

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DISRUPTIONS ON MANNED RESEARCH VESSELS

The new Mayflower could signify a change in the way ocean research is carried out in the future.

Coronavirus disruptions on manned research vessels are leading to a reduction in data about the weather and climate change, according to UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Reduced air travel means there’s a dearth of weather data from the skies as well.

All these disruptions could result in less accurate weather forecasts and climate models, the Commission has said.

 

 

Mayflower Punto Informatico, Italy

 


20 SETTEMBRE 2020 - Mayflower Autonomous Ship: al timone c'è l'IA

Quattrocento anni fa partiva l’avventura della Mayflower, la nave che portò i padri pellegrini sul continente americano ove di fatto nacquero gli Stati Uniti d’America. Alla simbolica distanza di 400 anni esatti, dallo stesso porto di Plymouth, è partita la prima nave a guida autonoma: la Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS).

Mayflower Autonomous Ship

Il progetto nasce dalla collaborazione tra IBM e ProMare dopo un lavoro lungo due anni. La Mayflower Autonomous Ship è un trimarano che nasce come strumento di studio a disposizione dell’oceanografia, per studiare i cambiamenti climatici, l’inquinamento delle acque e la salubrità della fauna marina.

L’imbarcazione è arricchita da oltre 30 sensori e 6 videocamere, quanto basta per sostituire completamente la presenza umana a bordo. Lunghezza di 15 metri, larghezza di 6,2 metri, 5 tonnellate di peso complessivo e motore ibrido con alimentazione solare. La guida è completamente affidata all’hardware di bordo ed alla capacità di scrutare l’orizzonte in cerca di possibili pericoli. Le informazioni meteo, l’analisi dello stato di navigazione e le istruzioni ricevute saranno gli input che la Mayflower Autonomous Ship potrà analizzare per stabilire rotta e ritmo di viaggio.

Questo primo prototipo ha scopi scientifici dichiarati, ma offrirà a IBM moltissime informazioni utili a comprendere quando e se si potrà realmente approdare ad una guida autonoma sui mari anche per il trasporto di merci o persone. La prospettiva è chiaramente interessante, perché si potrebbero ridurre costi e rischi migliorando l’efficienza di un settore che sotto molti punti di vista ha ancora ampi margini di innovazione davanti a sé.

La prossima sfida sarà lanciata nella primavera del 2021: attraversare l’oceano, per arrivare laddove l’uomo approdò 400 anni or sono per costruire il proprio futuro. Il nome Mayflower, prima ancora di essere un ricordo, è un’ambizione. By giacomo dotta

 

 

 

Washington Post, Woody Johnson launches Mayflower

 

 

THE WASHINGTON POST 17 SEPTEMBER 2020

Britain launches a new, high-tech Mayflower for ocean exploration. The ship, which will have no crew, will cross to America after gathering ocean data.

The U.S. ambassador to Britain officially launched a ship named Mayflower on Wednesday, 400 years to the day after a wooden vessel with that name sailed from an English port and changed the history of two continents.

Unlike the merchant ship that carried a group of European Puritan settlers to a new life across the Atlantic Ocean in 1620, the Mayflower christened by U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson has no crew or passengers. It will cross the sea powered by sun and wind, and steered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Johnson said the high-tech ship, developed jointly by British-based marine research organization ProMare and U.S. tech giant IBM, showed that “the pioneering spirit of the Mayflower really lives on” in the trans-Atlantic partnership.

“We’re heading out with the same spirit of adventure and determination and vision for the future” as the original colonists, the American diplomat said.

Like the Mayflower in 1620, the new vessel will travel from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, but on a marine research trip rather than a colony-founding journey. The coronavirus pandemic has delayed its trip until the spring of 2021.

The ship’s launch in Plymouth, 200 miles southwest of London, is part of Mayflower commemorations disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. They involve British, Americans and Dutch institutions — many of the 17th-century Pilgrims had fled England for Holland in the years before the voyage — and the Wampanoag people, who had lived for thousands of years in what is now New England.

In 1620, the Wampanoag helped the exhausted Mayflower settlers survive their first winter. But soon colonial expansion, conflict and new diseases were having a devastating impact on North America’s indigenous peoples.

Wampanoag stories have been marginalized on past Mayflower anniversaries, but they are playing a big part in events and exhibitions this time around.

’It’s going a long way to lend balance to this story,” said Paula Peters, a Wampanoag writer and educator who has helped create anniversary exhibitions.

“We don’t expect people to take one side or the other,” Peters said. “But certainly the story of the Mayflower is one that really can’t be told without telling also the story of the Wampanoag.″

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship — its creators decided against a snappier name — is intended to be the first in a new generation of crewless high-tech vessels that can explore parts of oceans too difficult or dangerous for people to reach.

Andy Stanford-Clark, chief technology officer for IBM U.K. and Ireland, said the ship’s launch “is a very exciting stage of the journey toward autonomous shipping” that could pave the way for AI-driven cargo ships, water taxis and research vessels — as well as warships.

The 50-foot trimaran will undertake six months of sea trials and short trips before setting out on its trans-Atlantic trip to measure ocean health: assessing the impact of climate change, measuring micro-plastic pollution and studying populations of whales and dolphins.

Along the way, its AI captain will have to make complex decisions in response to wind, waves, vessels and unknown surprises.

“We’re quietly confident we’re going to make it,” Stanford-Clark said. “Ultimately, the sea will decide.”

 

 

 

 

THE FUTURE OF AUTONOMOUS SHIPPING

In many ways, IBM is testing the water for the future of autonomous shipping with the Mayflower.

Allied Market Research thinks the autonomous shipping market could be a $135 billion industry by 2030 and IBM is weighing up where and how its technology can be used.

Stanford-Clark believes that AI captains could be used to “look over the shoulder” of a human captain.

“That same technology that we’re putting in Mayflower will also be able to operate in a guardian angel sort of mode,” he said, adding that there’s a huge amount of interest in this technology from big shipping companies.

He believes there’s a “big opportunity” for container ships to become autonomous in the future, adding that it would help to keep supply chains open during pandemics. 

Autonomous cars get all the attention but autonomous shipping is potentially even more useful.

“Everyone wants to see what we’re doing with Mayflower first but people are lining up to have these kind of conversations,” said Stanford-Clark. By Sam Shead

 

 

 

 


BUSINESS LIVE 6 SEPTEMBER 2020 - PLYMOUTH

Work starts on pioneering £1m robot research ship. Top tech firms and manufacturers combine with researchers to create vessel which will sail from Plymouth to the USA in late 2020.

Cutting-edge tech firms and a leading marine research charity are building a £1million robot ship that will sail across the Atlantic to mark 400 years since the Pilgrim Fathers voyaged to America.

The hull of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is already under construction at a shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, and is due to arrive in Plymouth in early 2020 to be equipped with monitoring equipment, including acoustic, nutrient and temperature sensors, plus water and air sampler.

The 15m-long research vessel will be powered by renewable energy and unmanned – controlled remotely from a command centre in Plymouth.

It will be used to collect date and create a picture of ocean conditions and mammal behaviour right across the Atlantic.

The ambitious project is being funded by ProMare Foundation, a non-profit corporation and public charity established to promote marine research and exploration throughout the world.

It will be constructed by Plymouth submarine manufacturer M Subs, which has more than 20 years’ experience in mechanical engineering, composites, electrical, electronic and software design.

The firm has just signed a £2million deal to create a robot sub for the Royal Navy and has produced unmanned submersibles for the US military. 

The catamaran’s three data-collecting research pods will be coordinated by the University of Plymouth.

Other firms that have supported the MAS project include UTC Aerospace, Silicon Sensing Ltd, Plymouth Citybus, Rotec Hydraulics Ltd, National Instruments, and computer giant IBM.

Final outfitting and testing will take place in Plymouth and the boat is likely to be trialled around Plymouth Sound in mid-2020 ready for its pioneering voyage across the Atlantic to commemorate Mayflower 400.

That is likely to take place in September 2020, 400 years after the original Mayflower sailed to America.

The project has been worked on since 2014, and the idea is for it to be used beyond its maiden voyage and become a prototype for autonomous marine research and exploration.

Brett Phaneuf, managing director of M Subs, said: “This ship will appropriately commemorate its predecessor’s voyage 400 years ago.

“It will also allow us to usher in a new phase of research with state-of-the-art technology. It enables us to once again put Plymouth on the map and celebrate the huge diversity of talent we have here, people who are interested in new beginnings and like to lean forward into new opportunities.

“Once it goes across the Atlantic it will go for a complete circumnavigation of the world. It will have marine AI on it with a command centre in Plymouth. The goal is for it not to be here too much, but to be out around the world.”

Mr Phaneuf said the MAS team had wanted the hull to be built in the UK but it was impossible to find a shipyard that could do it on time or on budget.

“It would have been three times as expensive to make in the UK,” he said. “Two yards were at 100% capacity and could not do it in time. The one that could was three times the cost of the Polish yard.”

Ayse Phaneuf, president of the ProMare Foundation, which will own MAS, said: “The original Mayflower voyage was all about exploration into a new world, and this project is to a large extent the same.

“It takes autonomous marine vessels to a new level and opens up countless scientific possibilities. We have made considerable progress over the past three years, and it is exciting to now see our vision taking shape as we continue preparations for the crossing next September.”

Professor Kevin Jones, executive dean of science and engineering at the University of Plymouth, said: “This voyage has the potential to be a real game-changer and cements Plymouth’s reputation as a world-leading hub of marine science.

“It gives us the genuine capability to explore new and innovative research opportunities that have not previously been possible. “It also raises the bar in terms of autonomous vessels, a world first that could set the standard for others in the field to follow.”

 

By William Telford  
Email: william.telford@reachplc.com
Phone: 01752 293116
Mob: 07584 594052

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS & CONTACTS

 

https://bluebird-electric.net/artificial_intelligence_autonomous_robotics/kickstarter_scout_solar_powered_autonomous_robot_boat_trans_atlantic_microtransat.htm

https://www.solar-nation.org/solar-boat-crossing-the-atlantic

http://www.solar-voyager.com/

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/10/testing-begins-on-autonomous-mayflower-ship-ahead-of-atlantic-voyage.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/aye-ai-captain-ibm-s-autonomous-ship-seeks-to-revolutionise-modern-transport-1.4397984

https://insideunmannedsystems.com/mayflower-autonomous-ship-on-shakedown-cruise-at-sea/

https://www.business-live.co.uk/manufacturing/work-starts-pioneering-1m-robot-16875962

https://www.marinelink.com/news/ai-solarpowered-autonomous-ship-mayflower-481779

https://www.punto-informatico.it/mayflower-autonomous-ship/

https://www.ship-technology.com/features/ai-in-shipping/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/mayflower-england-400-celebrations-exhibit-180975850/

https://mayflowereventnews.com/mayflower-autonomous-ship-project/

https://www.mayflower400uk.org/

https://www.mayflower400uk.org/news/2020/september/groundbreaking-mayflower-autonomous-ship-revealed-to-the-world/

http://www.promare.org/projects/
https://newsroom.ibm.com/then-and-now

 

 

The current energy autonomous (solar powered) transatlantic record holder is the Tûranor PlanetSolar, seen below. Note, this boat was manned, not crewless. Nevertheless, with an autopilot and collision avoidance sensors, in our view, she would easily make it across the Atlantic Ocean - from one waypoint to another in unmanned mode. But in 2012, the technology was not so freely available. Today, several companies offer full COLREGS compliant navigation systems.

 

 

 

 

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