Autonomous Mayflower will cross the ocean alone in 2020

There's a new Mayflower destined for the ocean waters, only this one won't have any crew onboard. It is called the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship, also known as MARS, which will be sailing all by itself from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2020. The date is to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower's historic voyage, and will mark yet another aspect of transportation that has eliminated the human component.

The trip will be, primarily, to gather data for research purposes, including gathering data related to climatology, oceanography, and meteorology. As noted by Gizmag, the research projects may slow down what would otherwise be a sub-two week trip — it is said the voyage could take several months, but it doesn't appear there's a solid timeframe in place at this point.

There will be equipment and various payloads aboard the vessel for carrying out the research projects, including the hardware needed to gather data on the trip itself — researchers will be looking at details on the automated function of the ship, how its software performs over the duration of the trip, communications with other autonomous vessels, and much more.

The ship itself is beautiful, measuring in at a little over one hundred feet long and about 55ft. wide, and with a hull that includes a composite of foam, glass, and aramid. The ship will have a top speed of about 23MPH. Before it takes to the Atlantic ocean, though, the ship will be tested for a year on the water.

Said Plymouth University, in part:

The autonomous drone technology that has been used so effectively in situations considered unsuitable for humans has not been harnessed by the shipping industry, which continues to steer the conservative course, its diesel engines pumping out carbon emissions and its manned crews at risk from piracy.

It begs the question, if we can put a rover on Mars and have it autonomously conduct research, why can't we sail an unmanned vessel across the Atlantic Ocean and, ultimately, around the globe?