Next year, a self-driving ship will set off on a 2,750-mile trip across the Atlantic Ocean to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to the Americas in 1620.
The Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS) will set sail from Plymouth, U.K. before docking in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The project, conceived in 2014, began construction in Poland on September 2. A control room in Plymouth, U.K. where the first Mayflower set off, will steer the unmanned, 100-foot-long, catamaran-style boat on its 7-10 month journey. One report estimates the cost to build the autonomous ship at $1.2 million.
Funded by the marine biology non-profit ProMare and coordinated by Plymouth University, the project will arrive in the U.K. from Poland for testing in Spring, 2020 before setting sail for the U.S. in September that year.
With a maximum speed of 20 knots, the MARS will be fueled by state-of-the-art renewable energy technologies, using wind and solar to cross the ocean. The ship will also carry ground-breaking research equipment, collecting data on “meteorology, oceanography, climatology, biology, marine pollution and conservation, and autonomous navigation," according to ProMare's website.
MARS celebrates the voyage of the original Mayflower, which carried the first English Puritans from Southern England to Cape Cod in the early 17th century. The commemoration will be the second major 400th anniversary in two years after the United States marked the first arrival of slave ships to the Americas in August.
Another robotic ship also plans to set sail across the Atlantic. Unrelated to the Mayflower remembrances, The Daily Beast reports that Marine tech company SEA-KIT prepares to launch its own unmanned vessel, the Maxlimer, across the ocean, next year. The ship has already made several trips between the UK and other European countries, delivering oysters and beer.