Unmanned Mayflower Voyage to be key event in 2020


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Council leader Tudor Evans with Professor Kevin Jones Executive Dean, Plymouth University and Brett Phaneuf Managing Director M Subs

A pioneering project that marries the city’s past and its ambition to be a global centre for marine technology is to form part of the official Mayflower 400 commemorations.

Plymouth City Council and the Plymouth-based Mayflower Autonomous Ship Ltd have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on the ‘Mayflower Autonomous Ship’ – the world’s first full-sized, fully autonomous, unmanned ship which is aiming to sail across the North Atlantic Ocean in 2020.

The extraordinary-looking vessel will be propelled by state-of-the-art wind and solar technology and will be fully equipped with the most modern navigation aids. It will be monitored and controlled either autonomously or remotely by a ‘crew’ based in Plymouth.

In addition, this revolutionary trimaran will be designed to carry advanced sensors and a variety of drones and Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (AUVs) that will enable it to conduct oceanographic research on route. It is hoped that in making the sailin, the MAS will become a recognised research platform that could be used to conduct future experiments in conditions that would be unsafe or difficult for humans.

M4_Tri__Daylight_Sketch_ModelThe project is being developed by a partnership including autonomous craft specialists MSubs and Plymouth University and Shuttleworth Design, a multi-award winning consultancy. Initial funding for the multi-million pound venture has been provided by the University, MSubs, and the ProMare Foundation.

Now the company is teaming up with the Council to make this epic unmanned sailing across the Atlantic a key event in the Mayflower programme.

Council leader Tudor Evans said: “People overuse the word ‘awesome’ but when this project comes off, it will be truly that. It’s being developed right here in Plymouth. It brings together marine technology, education, research, development, engineering, style, ambition in one incredible vessel.

“The team behind this vision is pushing the boundaries in almost every direction and going into new territories – much like the Pilgrims did 400 years ago. We want to see this ship sail across the Atlantic in 2020.”

The memorandum commits the partners to:

• Working together with the aim of having the Mayflower Autonomous Ship as a central part and investment opportunity of the overall Mayflower 400 programme

• Promote the project locally, nationally and internationally

• Ensure the Mayflower Autonomous Ship is an anchor attraction at the US Ambassador’s Mayflower event this September to raise awareness, demonstrate ambition and collaborative Research and Development

• Attract investment, through donations and sponsorship to enable the design, build and testing of the vessel

• Promote Plymouth as a marine technology centre of excellence.

• Identify suitable waterside industrial space designated for final assembly and a temporary visitor’s centre

Plymouth has, for centuries, been at the heart of oceanic developments and is already a key player in the world of marine technology. Marine related industries currently employ around 13,000 people or 11 per cent of the total jobs in Plymouth – including scientists, engineers, boat and ship builders

This sector has been identified in the city’s growth strategy as a priority sector and its position is being further strengthened by the plan to create a marine Industries Production Campus in the Devonport’s South Yard.

The significant waterfront location that was owned by the MOD was transferred to the Council as part of the Plymouth and South West Peninsula City Deal. Last year it was awarded Enterprise Zone status.