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Wireless Wednesday Exclusive: Autonomous Mayflower to cross Atlantic

Almost 400 years ago, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England on a voyage that would change the world. Over 100 passengers who arrived 2 months later would help lay the foundations of modern America. To mark the 4th centenary of the Mayflower voyage, another vessel will follow in its wake across the Atlantic. At the IBM THINK Summit in London, IBM recently announced that it is coming on board a project that is set to transform mankind's relationship with the ocean.

Rick talks with Brett Phaneuf, Managing Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship.


This time its crew and passengers will be replaced with advanced technologies instrumentation to help scientists perform research vital to the future of our oceans. In September 2020, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will take to the sea. Built by ProMare, a non-for-profit marine research organization, and with IBM AI and other advanced technologies at the helm to help avoid hazards, MAS will be one of the first unmanned, full-sized and fully-autonomous ships to cross the Atlantic.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates the value of the ocean economy could exceed $3 trillion by 2030, providing more than 40 million jobs. The Mayflower Autonomous Ship project aims to pioneer a cost-effective and flexible approach for gathering data that will help safeguard this vital resource especially from pollution, over-exploitation and the effects of global warming.

MAS will carry three research pods containing an array of sensors coordinated by the UK’s Plymouth University that scientists will use to advance understanding in a number of key areas from maritime cybersecurity to ocean plastics.

The training of the ship’s Artificial Intelligence system is well underway using real shipping data and images. MAS’s hull is currently under construction in Gdansk, Poland before being transported to Plymouth, UK early 2020 for the outfitting of navigation equipment. Sea testing will begin in the summer ahead of departure in September 2020, marking 400 years since the departure of the original Mayflower.

Brett Phaneuf, Managing Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship


Brett Phaneuf is the founder and chief executive of Submergence Group LLC (USA) / M Subs Ltd (UK) and through his office in the United Kingdom overseas the design and production of manned and unmanned, underwater vehicle systems. A serial entrepreneur, Mr. Phaneuf has recently turned his attention to machine learning and artificial intelligence; a new company (Marine Ai) has been spun out from M Subs Ltd with the goal of creating cognitive AI to enhance maritime capabilities by drawing on decades of experience in manned and unmanned marine vehicle design, manufacture and operations, coupled with vast experience in automation and autonomous systems software architecture, and computer vision expertise. Brett is also one of three founding board members of ProMare, a non-profit (501c3) public charity founded in 2001 to promote marine exploration throughout the world.

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