Photo: The Mayflower Autonomous Ship equipped with an Iridium Certus terminal. (Photo Credit: IBM/Promare )

Mayflower Autonomous Ship picks partners for transatlantic research data sharing

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) has chosen Iridium and partner Thales Group to deliver real-time communications for the fully autonomous transatlantic research vessel.

Expected to set sail in spring 2021, MAS’ first mission will be to take on the same transatlantic crossing of the original 17th century Mayflower, while gathering critical environmental data regarding climate change, ocean acidity, plastic pollution, marine mammal conservation, and more.

Iridium will provide Iridium Certus weather-resilient broadband connectivity for remote management of vessel operations such as command and control, tracking, propulsion system diagnostics, and others.

By powering a Thales VesseLINK 700 terminal, Iridium Certus will support MAS in its mission to maintain consistent communications with the team onshore and to keep track of the vessel’s location.

Controlled by an onboard artificial intelligence informally known as ‘AI Captain’ developed specifically for the project by IBM and MarineAI, real-time performance feedback, location, and situation awareness is transported over the Iridium network to the MAS control center.

“The Thales VesseLINK 700 powered by Iridium Certus onboard the Mayflower Autonomous Ship provides essential connectivity to backhaul vital science data in real time from MAS to our team of ocean and climate experts onshore, says Brett Phaneuf, founding board member, ProMare, and managing director, MAS.

“Equally important, it lets us check in with the AI Captain to see how it’s coping at sea and making myriad decisions every day to safely navigate the trip across the Atlantic“.

Also, Iridium has selected Applied Satellite Technology (AST) as a service provider.

Besides scientific mission, the voyage is expected to bring insights into the autonomous shipping movement underway in the maritime industry.

“The Mayflower Autonomous Ship is ultimately a research platform, not just for the science projects onboard, but for long range autonomous vehicles as well. We don’t assume we already have all of the answers so there is much that we can learn from this crossing“, says Don Scott, chief technical officer, MAS.