IBM-powered Mayflower autonomous ship sets sail across the Atlantic

After months of trials, the ship is making the big journey from the UK to the US.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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The Mayflower Autonomous Ship will collect environmental data during its journey. 


An autonomous ship fitted with software developed by IBM set sail across the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, according to project organizers. The Mayflower Autonomous Ship, which was completed and launched in September, is an artificial intelligence, solar-powered marine research vessel that'll sail across oceans to collect environmental data. The ship's name commemorates the crossing of the original Mayflower 400 years ago.

MAS has spent the last several months in sea trials and various research missions to prepare for the big journey from Plymouth, England, to Massachusetts in the US. It'll work with scientists and other autonomous vessels to gather information on issues like global warming, micro-plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. You can follow the ship's journey here.

Weather was a huge factor in determining when to set sail. The team consulted with meteorologists from IBM's The Weather Company each day to choose an ideal departure window and increase chances of success for the mission.

The ship, led by a team in Plymouth and software engineering from IBM, uses radar and GPS to navigate. Six cameras attached to the mast serve as the ship's "eyes" by feeding into an AI image recognition system that help it avoid oncoming ships and other hazards. The voyage to the US is estimated to take about three weeks.