IBM, ProMare to trial AI-based autonomous navigation software

IBM and marine research organisation ProMare have confirmed that a new artificial intelligence (AI) based software which will enable the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) to self-navigate across the Atlantic later this year is to go to sea this month for testing.

The trial, which will take place on a manned research vessel off the coast of Plymouth in the UK, will evaluate how the software uses cameras, AI, and edge computing systems to safely navigate around ships, buoys, and other ocean hazards that MAS is expected to meet during its transatlantic voyage in September 2020.

MAS will trace the route of the original 1620 Mayflower to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the famous voyage. Sailing from Plymouth, UK, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, with no human captain or onboard crew, it will become one of the first full-sized, fully autonomous vessels to cross the Atlantic.

MAS will rely on IBM’s advanced AI and edge computing systems to sense, think, and make decisions at sea, even with no human intervention. With the three hulls of the trimaran MAS currently reaching the final phase of construction in Gdansk, Poland, a prototype of the software will first take to the water on the manned vessel Plymouth Quest, a research ship owned and operated by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.

The March sea trials, which will be conducted in waters of Smart Sound Plymouth under the supervision of Plymouth Quest‘s human crew, will help determine how Mayflower‘s navigation software will perform in real-world maritime scenarios, and provide valuable feedback to help refine the ship’s machine learning models.

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