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Mayflower Autonomous Ship officially launched

Posted on 20 Sep 2020 and read 1160 times
Mayflower Autonomous Ship officially launchedPhoto: Tom Barnes for IBM

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship 400 (MAS 400) was officially named on 16 September during a special ceremony in Plymouth to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620.

A ceremonial bottle of Plymouth Gin was poured on the ship, with representatives from America, Holland and the UK present. They included the US Ambassador to the UK, Robert Wood Johnson, the Dutch Ambassador, Karel van Oosterom, and the UK’s First Sea Lord Admiral, Tony Radakin.

The future of oceanography, MAS will transform ocean science, enabling scientists to gather the data they need to better understand critical issues including global warming, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation.

The ship has been built by not-for-profit marine research organisation ProMare, with IBM acting as technology partner.

Robert Wood Johnson, said: “Four centuries after the famous Mayflower voyage across the Atlantic, the USA and the UK are once again setting sail from Plymouth to make history.

"American and British scientists have collaborated to launch a new autonomous Mayflower ship powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence.

Marine exploration

"As we embark on this new era of marine exploration together, it could not be clearer: in America and Britain, the pioneering spirit of the original Mayflower Pilgrims lives on."

Karel van Oosterom said: "As the Netherlands, we have always been proud of our maritime history and religious tolerance. The story of the Mayflower is part of our history. It highlights the longstanding ties we have with the four nations commemorating, but also reflects what we stand for today.

“As a trading nation and partner in development, the Netherlands has a leading role in developing creative, innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges.

“The launch of the 'new' Mayflower is a great example of innovation, both in the field of security and science. Together with the UK – as well as other countries, we work together to contribute to a safer and more sustainable world.

“Our presence here today, as well as our joint maritime activities in Plymouth are an example of this cooperation.”

Andy Stanford-Clark, IBM UK & Ireland chief technology officer, said: “Able to scan the horizon for possible hazards, make informed decisions and change its course based on a fusion of live data, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship has more in common with a modern bank than its 17th century namesake.

"With its ability to keep running in the face of the most challenging conditions, this small ship is a microcosm for every aspiring 21st century business."

To enable followers around the world to stay updated with MAS as it undertakes its various missions, IBM and ProMare have today launched a new interactive web portal.

Built by IBM iX, the business design arm of IBM Services, the MAS400 portal is designed to provide real-time updates about the ship's location, environmental conditions and data from its various research projects. Live weather data will be streamed from The Weather Company, as MAS is receiving forecast data and insight from the new IBM Weather Operations Centre.

Stowaway Octopus

The portal even features a seven-armed, stowaway octopus chatbot called Artie, who claims to be hitching a ride on the ship. Powered by IBM Watson Assistant technology and created in partnership with European start-up Chatbotbay, Artie has been trained to provide information about MAS and its adventures in a lively, and accessible format.

Fredrik Soreide, scientific director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project and board member of ProMare, said: “MAS400.com is one of the most advanced ocean mission web portals ever built. Protecting the ocean depends on our ability to engage the public in important matters affecting its health. It is designed to do exactly that and tell people where the ship is, what speed it's travelling at, what conditions it is operating in and what science we are conducting.

“Users can even help Artie the Octopus fish out surgical masks, cigarette butts and other increasingly common forms of ocean litter from a virtual ocean of facts and data.”