We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about many parts of the ocean. Putting a research ship to sea is expensive, dangerous and limited by how much time people can spend onboard. But what if we found a way to take humans off research ships and allow them to focus on interpreting data rather than collecting it? That’s the goal of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project, which is being led by the marine research organization Promare and supported by IBM and a global consortium of partners.
Built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the famous transatlantic crossing, the new Mayflower will have no human captain or onboard crew. Powered by AI and energy from the sun, it will be able to spend vast amounts of time at sea, helping scientists gather critical data about ocean threats including microplastic pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, habitat degradation and the impact on important species, including marine mammals.