IBM joins autonomous ship project

October 16, 2019 // By Rich Pell
IBM joins autonomous ship project
IBM (Armonk, NY) has announced that it has joined a global consortium that is building an unmanned, fully-autonomous ship that is planned to cross the Atlantic on the fourth centenary of the original Mayflower voyage, in September 2020.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will use IBM's AI, most powerful servers, cloud, and edge computing technologies to navigate autonomously and avoid ocean hazards as it makes its way from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts. If successful, says the company, it will be one of the first self-navigating, full-sized vessels to cross the Atlantic Ocean and will open the door on a new era of autonomous research ships.

"IBM helped put man on the moon and is excited by the challenge of using advanced technologies to cross and research our deepest oceans," says Andy Stanford-Clark, Chief Technology Officer, IBM UK & Ireland. "By providing the brains for the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, we are pushing the boundaries of science and autonomous technologies to address critical environmental issues."

The vessel will carry three research pods containing an array of sensors and scientific instrumentation that will be used to advance understanding in areas such as maritime cybersecurity, marine mammal monitoring, sea level mapping, and ocean plastics. The project is led by marine research organization ProMare (Chester, CT) and will be coordinated by the University of Plymouth, UK, who are at the forefront of marine and maritime research, with support from IBM and ProMare.

"Putting a research ship to sea can cost tens of thousands of dollars or pounds a day and is limited by how much time people can spend onboard – a prohibitive factor for many of today's marine scientific missions," says Brett Phaneuf, a Founding Board Member of ProMare and Co-Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project (together with fellow Board Member Fredrik Soreide). "With this project, we are pioneering a cost-effective and flexible platform for gathering data that will help safeguard the health of the ocean and the industries it supports."

The project will leverage IBM's PowerAI Vision technology with its Power Systems accelerated servers to help ProMare build deep learning models capable of recognizing navigation hazards that come into

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