A project has been launched to create a 21st Century version of the Mayflower, which will mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the vessel out of Plymouth.
This multi-million pound robot boat will aim to be able to sail without crew from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, USA in 2020.
Earl of Devon believes the project can engage the US and the UK in a joint venture that could change the maritime world: “The Mayflower Autonomous Ship is an amazing project to be able to get involved with.”
He continued: "The team that is assembled is creating wholly new technology. It is breaking the bounds of what we can do on the ocean and it is going to create a whole new industry that will allow ships to navigate around the world without human intervention at all and it is a great new step in technology that we are really excited to be involved in."
In order to get the design from blueprint to boatyard, organisers need to raise £300,000 for the crucial next design and development stage which will include robust wave tank scale-model testing.
Therefore, the team behind the Mayflower Autonomous Ship are now planning a Crowdfunding launch which will offer the chance to put individual names on the side of the ship when it is built.
For £20 you can put your name on the boat; for £50 you can put your family's name on it and for £35 you can put two names and a significant date.
Orion Shuttleworth designed the new Mayflower Autonomous Ship, he explained: "One of the key aims of the project is to cross the Atlantic in 2020 following the route of the original Mayflower that sailed nearly 400 years ago, and this vessel will point the way to the next 400 years of maritime development.”
He added: “The use of renewable energy systems and extremely efficient hull shapes and engineering will become essential to protect the environment and for ships to be economically viable as fossil fuels become depleted.”
The launch of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship out of Plymouth UK as the flagship of the Mayflower 400 celebrations will hope to cement the city's reputation as a global centre of marine excellence and a marine science hub.
It will be the first vessel of its kind to sail without captain or crew across the Atlantic and be able to conduct scientific research around the world.
When launched, it can be controlled by a computer, or by a captain sitting behind a virtual bridge onshore. It would sail out of Plymouth via remote control and then switch to autonomous control once out at sea.
Solar powered, with battery and renewable energy capture, the vessel will be able to travel to inhospitable parts of the world to conduct scientific research and collect data.
Onboard there will be unmanned aerial vehicles plus life rafts so that it can respond to a distress call from other mariners, and be first on the scene and render assistance.
Professor Bob Stone of the University of Birmingham, who is part of the design team, concluded: "The concept offers a unique and exciting opportunity for us to show how Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies can be exploited.”
“Not only to develop a highly interactive solution for monitoring and, if necessary, controlling the vessel remotely, but also as a high-tech, immersive technique to help members of the public, schoolchildren, students and researchers engage with the mission, both in 2020 and beyond.”
By Alice Mason