Maritime News

Mayflower Autonomous Ship picks partners for transatlantic research data sharing

The Mayflower will be equipped with a Thales VesseLINK 700 terminal powered by Iridium Certus broadband connectivity.

Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) has selected Iridium and Thales Group as its official communications partner, providing critical real-time communications for the fully autonomous transatlantic research vessel.

In addition to its scientific mission, the crewless voyage will deliver insights for the autonomous shipping movement underway in the maritime industry. Iridium will provide Iridium Certus weather-resilient broadband connectivity which can help remotely manage vessel operations including command and control, tracking, propulsion system diagnostics and more.

The Mayflower is an autonomous ship led by marine research non-profit ProMare and IBM, which will travel the same route as the original 17th century Mayflower. It will collect environmental data regarding climate change, ocean acidity, plastic pollution, marine mammal conservation, and more. The Mayflower is set to leave on its journey this June.

Speaking about the partnership, Brett Phaneuf, Founding Board Member, ProMare, and Managing Director, Mayflower Autonomous Ship, said: “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. 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. While the AI Captain won’t need the development team’s help on the crossing, and while the Mayflower won’t miss us one bit, the team in the UK that developed the ship and software is deeply attached and will worry incessantly as the voyage unfolds. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry as much with the superlative comms from Iridium that helps allay our concerns about the vessel as it makes the historic crossing.”

Don Scott, Chief Technical Officer, Mayflower Autonomous Ship, added: “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. The connection provided by the Iridium system gives us the ability to monitor the AI systems in real-time while underway and helps us prepare for the next steps in their development. Having the high availability communications on the vehicle provides us with much-appreciated telepresence onboard.”

Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium, stated: “When the original Mayflower crew set sail on their pilgrimage, they took a risk inspired by hope for a better future. The Mayflower Autonomous Ship serves as a modern inspiration, showing how new technologies can make a long-term positive impact on both the global economy and our environment. Iridium is proud to be the official communications partner for this ambitious expedition, ensuring the ProMare team onshore can keep track of MAS and receive the data they need.”