To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the journey of these first English settlers to America, a new kind of “Mayflower” will repeat the same route in September. But without a captain or sailor on board. He will pilot himself thanks to his artificial intelligence. A new era for ships that will sail the seas without a crew. And all the time.
They left a hundred Plymouth in Great Britain and baptized their land of arrival Plymouth in Massachusetts. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of this event that laid the foundations of the United States, an NGO, ProMare, dedicated to the problems of the oceans, decided, in partnership with the universities of Plymouth and Birmingham, to build a boat without any Crew. This “Mayflower” 3.0 will not be flown remotely, like a drone or like the Curiosity robot on Mars. He will be in control of his decisions. Thanks to artificial intelligence provided by IBM. This AI is currently being trained using various sources of still or video images obtained on various ships that have already crossed the Atlantic, to enable the trimaran to recognize the obstacles it may encounter. live buoys, cargo ships, fallen containers, marine animals, etc. During his journey, he will also be assisted by the Automated Identification System (AIS) and a laser detection device, comparable to those now embedded in autonomous cars.
But the “captain” who will lead all the data will be the Business Rules Management System, a decision-making software designed by IBM, set up to react alone, based on all the information it has. Those mentioned above, but also, the updated marine information in real time. This will allow it to decide whether to switch on the diesel engine in order to change course as a matter of urgency. Indeed, the “Mayflower” will run on solar (and wind) energy, but a thermal engine will be required for such a maneuver, requiring a faster and immediate speed. This 5,000-kilometre trip will provide a great deal of information about cybersecurity, among other things, as eventually this type of autonomous boat could become the norm. Changing the design of ships itself since engineers would no longer have to worry about the imperatives of a life on board.
Paris Match. How did you come up with this idea?
Brett Phaneuf. Building an identical “Mayflower” to celebrate his birthday was not very original. The idea of a self-contained journey was therefore born. An expedition of studies in
the sea costs thousands of dollars a day, and its duration is limited by the fact that humans cannot stay on board indefinitely. A hindrance to many projects. By proving that an artificial “brain” can conduct a mission without outside intervention, we hope to push the boundaries of the science and technology of autonomous vehicles, and pave the way for a new type of expeditions, which can monitor the health of the oceans at a lower cost.
Why is this trip so scientific?
We will have three study modules full of sensors to allow scientists to analyze the risks associated with cybersecurity, but also to monitor the life of marine mammals and draw a more accurate map of the presence of microplastics in our seas.