IBM Joins the Mayflower Autonomous Ship Project

Big Blue will lend its big tech to the challenge of crossing the Atlantic with a robotic vessel.

IBM has announced that it is joining the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project. The Mayflower project, which is led by the marine research organization ProMare, has the goal of building and sailing an autonomous ship across the Atlantic from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims who landed in America in 1620.

IBM will provide AI for the mission and will use its technology and expertise to help the new Mayflower “navigate autonomously and avoid ocean hazards.”

According to the press release, “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," said 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."

If successful, the voyage will be the first self-navigating, full-sized vessel to cross the Atlantic.