Unmanned roboship set to follow the route of the Mayflower on the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim's voyage to America
It is a route that first brought the Pilgrims from England to Plymouth in 1620.
Now, the route of the Mayflower is set to be followed again - by a entirely autonomous high tech ship.
Called the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), the unmanned ship runs entirely on renewable energy, and will sail on the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims' voyage from England to America.
It will also launch drones during the trip to gather meteorological, oceanographic and climate data.
MAS is being developed by a partnership of the University of Plymouth, autonomous craft specialists MSubs, and public charity Promare which promotes marine research and exploration throughout the world.
However, the ship is still a concept and researchers note it will take two-and-a-half years to build, following a year’s worth of testing before it is ready to sail the open ocean.
The sail date will mark the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower from Plymouth, England to Plymouth Massachusetts.
The ship is more than 100 feet long and will reach speeds of 12.5 knots with the electric motor and 20 knots with sails, basically 23 miles per hour in not very windy conditions.
'Our approach to developing the concept was to fully explore and take advantage of the opportunities that arise from not having to carry crew, and to create a vessel that is capable of using only renewable energy,' John Shuttleworth, who runs Shuttleworth Design with his brother Orion, wrote in a statement.
'Working within the limitations of renewable energy sources has given a clear direction to the developing form of the vessel.'
The ship will also launch drones to gather meteorological, oceanographic and climate data, with the hopes of gaining knowledge about the current condition of the ocean, reported Tech Insider.
The vessel is intended to house one or more modular payload bays, much like a Space Shuttle, into which a diverse range of mission equipment will be fitted to support the various research tasks.
When the first started designing the ship, the team found issues with the solar cell area on the ship.
It was too large for sailing and was would become unsafe when the boat hit big waves.
However, the team found a separate method that uses a folding wing system - this increased the solar cell area by 40 percent in calm conditions.
While on the sea, the team will monitor how the renewable energy and propulsion systems handles, which could prove useful in other marine vessels.
They will also conduct research on the software for automated and autonomous operations for extended duration, advanced satellite communications and co-operative behavior between nested automated and autonomous vehicles operating below, on and above the water simultaneously.
A trimaran boat design is being used, which is a multi-hull boat consisting of a mail hull with two small outrigger hulls attached.
Trimarans are common sail driven yachts that are for both recreational use and racing.
'A trimaran was chosen because it provides the most efficient hull form for low speed motoring,' explained Shuttleworth.
'The hull configuration developed from a requirement to reduce windage, while keeping the solar array sufficiently high above the water to reduce wave impact.'
With the way the outer hulls are designed to skin the water, resistance is reduced by 8 percent.
'An Atlantic crossing could take as little as seven to 10 days with optimal wind conditions but what's important is that it could take seven to 10 months if we so choose, so that the ship could collect voluminous data for ongoing analysis by shore based teams of scientists and not worry about refueling, or re-provisioning, or illness.....or loneliness,' said Phaneuf.
Researchers will closely monitor MAS throughout its journey, to watch for any structural, mechanical, electrical, corrosion and software issues.
The team will also keep an eye out for vandalism and piracy, although these aren't major concerns
This multi-million pound project is part of the University's 'Shape the Future' fundraising campaign, which launched at the House of Lords
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