Sea Trials Begin for Autonomous Ship’s ‘AI Captain’

After two years of training artificial intelligence models, electronics giant IBM and marine research organization Promare are now ready to let their “AI Captain” take to the high seas.

The two companies recently announced that they will be holding sea trials for their AI Captain, hoping that it would enable the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) to self-navigate across the Atlantic later this year.

The trial will take place off the coast of Plymouth in the U.K. An unmanned research vessel will be used for the tests, which will evaluate how the captain uses cameras, AI, and its edge computing system to navigate around ships, buoys, and other hazards.

“While the autonomous shipping market is set to grow from $90BN today to over $130BN by 2030*, many of today’s autonomous ships are really just automated – robots which do not dynamically adapt to new situations and rely heavily on operator override,” said Don Scott, CTO of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship. “Using an integrated set of IBM’s AI, cloud, and edge technologies, we are aiming to give the Mayflower the ability to operate independently in some of the most challenging circumstances on the planet.”

The Mayflower Autonomous Ships aims to trace the original Mayflower’s voyage from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, Massachusetts on its 400th anniversary. The autonomous ship will be completely unmanned during the journey, and if successful, will be one of the first full-sized, fully autonomous vessels to cross the Atlantic.

Photo: IBM