04 Sep

For commercial cross-ocean voyages, the Mayflower autonomous ship (MAS) project is a key demonstration. The Mayflower autonomous and solar-powered research vessel was launched in Plymouth, UK, after two years of design and construction, in September 2020. 

Its creators intend to prepare this vessel for the first-ever transatlantic crossing by an unmanned ship in 2021. This vessel has an artificial intelligence AI Captain built by ProMare and IBM, which gives Mayflower the ability to sense, think and make decisions at sea with no onboard crew.

 This marine AI is underpinned by IBM’s advanced edge computing systems, automation software, computer vision technology and Red Hat open-source software. Mayflower will undergo six months of sea trials, research missions and voyages before attempting to cross the Atlantic in Q2 2021. 

In Norway, the world’s first autonomous-ready commercial ship was delivered and is ready for sea trials in 2021. Yara Birkeland was delivered to Yara International in November by Norwegian shipyard Vard Brattvåg. It will undergo container loading and stability testing before sailing to a test area in Horten, Norway for further preparations for autonomous operation. Successful operation and lessons learned from the project could lay the groundwork for future autonomous vessel operations. 

In offshore, 2021 will see delivery of the first autonomous vessels for survey work. Ocean Infinity is taking a lead with its Armada fleet of robotic vessels under construction. Grovfjord Mek Verksted (GMV) is building the initial fleet of 21-m vessels in Norway, ready for operation in 2021. 

These were designed for offshore oil, gas and renewables surveys with ultra-low emissions. Ocean Infinity has announced plans for the next phase with a contract signed for eight 78-m optionally crewed robotic vessels. The first is expected to be launched from Vard’s shipyard in mid-2022

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