Mayflower autonomous ship completes 3500-mile trans-Atlantic voyage

After a 40-day, 3500-mile (5600km) journey from Plymouth, UK, The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Sunday 5th June. Throughout the voyage the ship’s ‘AI Captain’ guided the vessel using precise motion data from two Silicon Sensing AMU30 inertial measurement units (IMUs). These IMU’s also helped measure sea surface height as part of detailed scientific analysis of ocean topography.

Steve Capers, General Manager of Silicon Sensing Systems comments: “This is an incredible achievement. The Mayflower is the largest unmanned vessel to successfully make this difficult crossing. We congratulate everyone on this dedicated and hardworking team, and we are very proud of the contribution made by our small, rugged IMUs.”

The AMU30 is a micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) unit with impressive inertial performance, including exceptional bias stability and low noise characteristics, plus an embedded Kalman Filter based AHRS (attitude and heading reference system) algorithm. It delivers precise 3-axis outputs of angular rate and acceleration, plus roll, pitch and heading angles, altitude and pressure, and temperature, at 200Hz – all critical to precise maritime navigation.

Two AMU30s made real-time, precision measurements of the movement of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship in 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) allowing the AI Captain to make minute manoeuvring adjustments to optimise vessel performance in a complex wavefield. They also provided redundant general navigation capability at sea.

When coupled with optical and RTK (real time kinematics) GPS information, they also assisted the ship in making highly accurate measurements of sea surface height, helping in the study of ocean tides, circulation and the amount of heat the ocean holds.

The MAS journey across the Atlantic retraced the voyage of the original Mayflower some 400 years ago. It is just one element of an extensive scientific data gathering and research programme the vessel will complete in the coming years. The ship is guided by its AI Captain, built using IBM cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing technologies, and uses a hybrid engine that draws on solar power. Working with scientists and other autonomous vessels it provides a flexible platform for deepening understanding of issues such as climate change, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. In parallel, the development of marine autonomous systems such as this will transform ocean-related industries such as shipping, oil & gas, telecommunications, security & defence, fishing & aquaculture.

Mayflower’s autonomous trans-Atlantic voyage is underway

Compact inertial sensors from Silicon Sensing vital to Mayflower autonomous voyage

  • Precise motion data from silicon IMUs advises vessel manoeuvring
  • Devices also assist measurement of ocean surface

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) departed Plymouth, UK on Wednesday April 27th 2022, commencing her second attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the voyage, which is expected to take in the region of 3 weeks, the ‘AI Captain’ that guides the vessel will receive precise motion data from two Silicon Sensing AMU30 inertial measurement units (IMUs). These IMU’s will also help measure sea surface height as part of detailed scientific analysis of ocean topography.

Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the project comments: “The AMU30s have been bullet proof deployed in extremely challenging conditions and are vital to the Mayflower Autonomous Ship’s mission to collect highly resolute data from the world’s oceans.”

Steve Capers, General Manager of Silicon Sensing Systems comments: “This is an extraordinary project and we are proud that our small, rugged IMUs are at the heart of both the control of the vessel and the gathering of data that will further our knowledge of the oceans.”

AMU30 is a micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) unit with impressive inertial performance, including exceptional bias stability and low noise characteristics, plus an embedded Kalman Filter based AHRS (attitude and heading reference system) algorithm. It delivers precise 3-axis outputs of angular rate and acceleration, plus roll, pitch and heading angles, altitude and pressure, and temperature, at 200Hz – all critical to precise maritime navigation.

Phaneuf explains: “The two AMU30 are used to make real-time, precision measurements of the movement of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship in 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) so that the AI Captain may make minute manoeuvring adjustments to optimise vessel performance in a complex wavefield, while also providing redundant general navigation capability at sea.”

He continues: Furthermore, when coupled with optical and RTK (real time kinematics) GPS information, the AMU30 assists the ship in making highly accurate measurements of sea surface height. Accurate measurements of ocean surface topography are important for studying ocean tides, circulation and the amount of heat the ocean holds.”

The MAS journey across the Atlantic will celebrate the voyage of the original Mayflower some 400 years ago. It is just one element of an extensive scientific data gathering and research programme the vessel will complete in the coming years. The ship is guided by its new AI Captain, built using IBM cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing technologies, and uses a hybrid engine that draws on solar power. Working with scientists and other autonomous vessels it provides a flexible platform for deepening understanding of issues such as climate change, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. In parallel, the development of marine autonomous systems such as this will transform ocean-related industries such as shipping, oil & gas, telecommunications, security & defence, fishing & aquaculture.

View video of the ship’s departure from Plymouth HERE

CRH02 aids ship navigation

Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd’s latest inertial measurement technology has been used in AD Navigation AS’s new pilot’s aid, the ADX XR, to successfully guide the ‘Pioneering Spirit’ – the world’s largest construction vessel – into Maasvlakte in the port of Rotterdam.

With large vessels such as the Pioneering Spirit, which measures 372 x 124 meters, final entrance and docking manoeuvres in the close confines of port are typically controlled by a pilot. The pilot uses the ADX XR as their ship-independent navigation aid.

In the trials, precise movement data from Silicon Sensing’s CRH02 all-silicon gyros allowed the ADX XR to deliver a highly accurate and detailed 3 to 5-minute ship course prediction to the pilot. CRH02 is a compact, low noise, single axis gyroscope which provides outstanding performance, similar to a fibre optic gyro, but is more rugged, with a lower size and weight.

Following this successful performance, AD Navigation has placed a production order for CRH02 gyros with Silicon Sensing.

Lorentz Ryan, Managing Director of AD Navigation commented: “The compact form factor along with the extremely precise performance of the new CRH02 gyro makes it a perfect component in our ADX XR ultra-precise and portable navigation system. We appreciate our long-standing relationship with Silicon Sensing and the excellent support from all their staff.”

Steve Capers, General Manager, Silicon Sensing Systems comments: “Our MEMS gyros are relied on in many maritime roles, including positioning, stabilisation and navigation, but our team is particularly proud of this successful trial with AD Navigation on the Pioneering Spirit vessel. Our devices are based on our patented vibrating ring design which means they offer a unique combination of precision performance and robustness – a combination that is particularly appropriate in the tough and ever-changing maritime environment.”

Pioneering Spirit

Pioneering Spirit (formerly Pieter Schelte) is the largest construction vessel in the world. Inspired by the offshore heavy lifting pioneer Pieter Schelte Heerema (1908–81) and designed completely in-house, the vessel is designed for the single-lift installation and removal of large oil and gas platforms and the installation of record-weight pipelines.

AD Navigation AS

AD Navigation was founded in 2002 in Sarpsborg, Norway. Since the start, the company has been innovating cutting edge technology tailored for ship-pilots. Today, the ultra-precise portable navigation systems from AD Navigation AS play an important role managing the traffic in major ports like Rotterdam, Antwerp, London and Liverpool, as well as being utilised by the US Navy for manoeuvring of naval vessels to a precision of only a few centimetres.

Silicon Sensing Systems

Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd is a gyroscope and inertial systems engineering development company, jointly owned by Collins Aerospace and Sumitomo Precision Products. The company was formed in 1999 and is, today, a market leader in silicon, micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based navigation and stabilisation technology. Approaching 30 million MEMS gyroscopes and accelerometers have been supplied to thousands of customers since the company’s formation.

High performance IMU for MAS400

Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd’s latest DMU30 inertial measurement unit (IMU) is to provide highly accurate ship’s attitude data to the autopilot that will navigate the ground-breaking Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS 400) as she travels the world.

The mission of the MAS 400 project is to build an autonomous vessel capable of conducting scientific research, with the endurance and reliability to operate remotely in all corners of the globe. The vessel’s maiden voyage, unmanned, across the Atlantic, will form part of Plymouth, England’s ‘Mayflower 400’ celebrations in 2020 – commemorating the 400th anniversary of the crossing of the pilgrim fathers in the original Mayflower from Plymouth UK to Plymouth MA, USA. Having completed the crossing, MAS 400 will then travel on around the globe.

Steve Capers, General Manager, Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd, comments: “As a Plymouth-based operation, we are extremely proud to contribute our technology to this inspirational, forward-looking project. Data provided by our DMU30 will help ensure the operators of the MAS 400 vessel can be confident in her ability to navigate autonomously around the world.”

Silicon Sensing’s DMU30 is the company’s latest high performance micro-electro mechanical system (MEMS) IMU and is designed for use where there are exacting motion sensing requirements, as with the MAS 400. DMU30 is a full 6 degree of freedom (DoF) IMU that uses the company’s own gyros and accelerometers to create a small, rugged and cost-effective unit that offers the high levels of performance more typical of larger, heavier and more costly fibre optic gyro (FOG)-based devices.

Steve Capers continues: “As the unmanned market develops, and with unmanned platforms, whether land, sea or air, being typically smaller than their manned counterparts, we anticipate a need to maintain, and exceed, the performance of manned platforms – but in less space and with less available power. This is where our DMU30 IMU comes into its own, matching the performance usually only delivered by FOG-based technology in a unit that consumes little power, is small, lightweight and low cost.”

A DMU30 unit has already been delivered to MSubs Ltd for use throughout the trials for the MAS 400 vessel. The units are already in full production at the Plymouth facility and in use in various applications. DMU30 is also being evaluated for a number of subsea and survey applications – with initial results exceeding expectations.

Mayflower Autonomous Ship Project

On 6th September, back in 1620, the ‘Mayflower’ set sail for America with 102 intrepid early settlers bound for the new land across the Atlantic Ocean, a perilous journey which took 66 days to reach what we now know as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.

To mark the 400th anniversary of this undertaking, a team led by US-owned but Plymouth-based firm MSubs, and including Plymouth University and ProMare (a charitable research foundation), has an audacious plan to design and build a fully autonomous ship to make the same Atlantic crossing, completely unmanned, in 2020. During the voyage, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship – MAS400 – will conduct a series of scientific experiments before arriving at its destination in the USA. Unlike the Mayflower however, the final destination isn’t America, as the plan is for MAS400 to continue on an unmanned circumnavigation of the globe, eventually returning to its home port of Plymouth.

Silicon Sensing is to provide a package of support to help turn the MAS400 concept into reality. In addition to sponsorship of the project, Silicon Sensing will supply its latest precision MEMS IMU (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems – Inertial Measurement Unit), the DMU30, to provide the inertial sensing data within the electronic autopilot to help guide MAS400 during its ocean adventures. MSubs and Silicon Sensing have been collaborating on the evaluation of DMU30 for future INS-based surface and subsea navigation solutions for a variety of projects at MSubs.

Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd specialises in the production of advanced MEMS gyros, accelerometers and inertial measurement units for a wide range of industrial and commercial markets, ranging from autonomous vehicles through smart agriculture to aviation.

Follow the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project at Twitter @MAS_400 and on Facebook page MARS400. For more information on the Mayflower 400 celebrations visit www.mayflower400uk.com. To find out more about Silicon Sensing and its inertial sensor products, visit www.siliconsensing.com.

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