An unmanned voyage in the wake of the Mayflower

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (Images: Bob Stone, Human Interface Technology Team, University of Birmingham)

The University of Plymouth is partnering with marine research and exploration charity ProMare and engineering company MSubs to create the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS). 

Beginning its journey in Plymouth in September 2020, it will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ voyage to the new world.

Powered by state-of-the-art renewable energy technology, it will carry a series of research pods that will include acoustic, nutrient and temperature sensors, along with water and air samplers. This will not only create a picture of ocean conditions and mammal behaviour right across the Atlantic, but pave the way for ground-breaking research into ocean conditions, marine pollution and conservation, and autonomous navigation.

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Mayflower Autonomous Ship in dock - credit Bob Stone, Human Interface Technology Team, University of Birmingham<br></p>
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Mayflower Autonomous Ship in modern dock - credit Bob Stone, Human Interface Technology Team, University of Birmingham

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Mayflower Autonomous Ship in dock - credit Bob Stone, Human Interface Technology Team, University of Birmingham<br></p>


The original Mayflower voyage was all about exploration into a new world, and this project is to a large extent the same. It takes autonomous marine vessels to a new level and opens up countless scientific possibilities. We have made considerable progress over the past three years, and it is exciting to now see our vision taking shape as we continue preparations for the crossing next September.

Fredrik Soreide, the ProMare Project Director


This voyage has the potential to be a real game-changer and cements Plymouth’s reputation as a world-leading hub of marine science. It gives us the genuine capability to explore new and innovative research opportunities that have not previously been possible. It also raises the bar in terms of autonomous vessels, a world first that could set the standard for others in the field to follow.

Professor Kevin Jones, Executive Dean of Science and Engineering