There won’t be any pilgrims aboard the Mayflower when it sails across the Atlantic in 2020. In fact, there won’t be anyone aboard the ship, as this research vessel will be entirely unmanned. The wind- and solar-powered Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS) will sail itself from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the 400th anniversary of the original ship’s journey to the new world.
MARS is the output of Project MARS, a partnership between Plymouth University, autonomous craft specialist MSubs and yacht manufacturer Shuttleworth Design. The trimaran – that’s a boat with three hulls – is designed to be an impressive and capable marine vessel, measuring 32.5 meters (106.6 feet) long and 16.8 meters (55.1 feet) across. MARS will sport a glass/aramid/foam composite hull and a carbon composite deck tough enough to protect its expensive research equipment from the dangers of the open sea.
Technically, it’s a sailboat, so the vessel will be wind-powered up to an estimated 20 knots (23 mph) when the breeze is good. Other times, its solar-powered electric motor will propel the craft up to 12.5 knots (14 mph). Based on distance alone, these speeds mean MARS could complete the ocean crossing in as little as a week or 10 days, but project engineers say it will realistically take longer, possibly as long as a few months, because of all the research tasks the vessel will tackle along the way. The ship will work to gather data for a variety of investigative purposes, including meteorology, oceanography and climatology.
Oh, and to conduct some of that research, MARS will need a little help. Since there aren’t any hands on deck to do that, this drone ship will launch and recall flying drones of its own.
Images via Shuttleworth Design