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Inertial sensors vital to Mayflower autonomous voyage

March 16, 2022  - By
Photo: IBM

Photo: IBM

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is set to re-embark on its three-week trans-Atlantic journey in April 2022 equipped with two of Silicon Sensing’s AMU30 inertial measurement units (IMUs). These devices send highly precise motion data to the new ‘AI captain’ that guides the vessel. They also assist in measuring sea surface height as part of detailed scientific analysis of ocean topography.

AMU30 is a micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) unit with excellent inertial performance, including very good 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 200 Hz — all critical to precise maritime navigation.

“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,” said Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the project. “Furthermore, when coupled with optical and RTK (real time kinematics) GPS data, the AMU30 assists the ship in making highly accurate measurements of sea surface height, which 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.

Featured Photo: IBM

About the Author:


Matteo Luccio possesses 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@gpsworld.com or 541-543-0525.

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