Crewless robotic Mayflower ship nears Plymouth Rock

Jun 29, 2022, 7:43 PM | Updated: Jun 30, 2022, 8:09 am
Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project, flashes a thumb up after greet...

Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project, flashes a thumb up after greeting the Mayflower Autonomous Ship , Thursday, June 30, 2022, off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., after a crew-less journey from Plymouth, England. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

              Sea Tow captain Ethan Maass, left, hooks the bow line of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship as Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project, looks on, Thursday, June 30, 2022, off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., after a crew-less journey from Plymouth, England. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
            
              A tow boat approaches the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, Thursday, June 30, 2022, about twenty miles off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., after a crew-less journey from Plymouth, England. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
            
              Mayflower Autonomous Ship motors freely, Thursday, June 30, 2022, about twenty miles off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., after a crew-less journey from Plymouth, England. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
            
              Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project, flashes a thumb up after greeting the Mayflower Autonomous Ship , Thursday, June 30, 2022, off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., after a crew-less journey from Plymouth, England. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — A crewless robotic boat retracing the 1620 sea voyage of the Mayflower is set to land near Plymouth Rock.

The sleek Mayflower Autonomous Ship met with an escort boat as it approached the Massachusetts shoreline Thursday, more than 400 years after its namesake’s historic voyage from England.

Piloted by artificial intelligence technology, the 50-foot (15-meter) trimaran didn’t have a captain, navigator or any humans on board.

The ship’s first attempt to cross the Atlantic in 2021 was beset with technical problems, forcing it to return to its home port of Plymouth, England.

It set off from the English coast again in April but mechanical difficulties forced it to divert twice: first to Portugal’s Azores islands and then to Canada. On Monday, it departed Halifax, Nova Scotia bound for Plymouth Harbor in Massachusetts, where it’s scheduled to dock later Thursday near a replica of the original Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to America.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare worked with IBM to build the ship and has been using it to collect data about whales, microplastics pollution and for other scientific research. Small autonomous experimental vessels have crossed the Atlantic before but researchers describe it as the first ship of its size to do so.

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Crewless robotic Mayflower ship nears Plymouth Rock