Four centuries after the original Mayflower sailed to the New World, an autonomous ship will re-create the journey, guided by inertial measurement technology from Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd. Two ultra-precise AMU30 inertial measurement units will provide critical navigation to the Mayflower Autonomous Ship’s autopilot during its milestone trans-Atlantic voyage this autumn, said Plymouth, U.K.-based Silicon Sensing.
Setting sail this September, the 15 meter-long, 5-ton Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will repeat the Mayflower’s Pilgrim voyage of 400 years ago. Led by nonprofit marine research organization ProMare and powered by IBM, she will sail from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Mass. Instead of a captain and crew, MAS400 will use computer vision, machine learning, edge technologies, and sensors to navigate and detect hazards.
Traveling at a maximum speed of up to 12 knots, MAS is expected to take just 12 days to reach the coast of Massachusetts — a fraction of the 66 days that 102 passengers and 30 crew spent during the original voyage. The ship will also function as a scientific laboratory. Onboard sensors will transmit data for critical research programs in areas such as maritime cybersecurity, marine mammal monitoring, ocean micro-plastic analysis, and sea-level mapping.
Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team is leading the development of a Mixed Reality Telepresence Science Station, which will allow schoolchildren and members of the public around the world to experience the trans-Atlantic mission. The University of Plymouth Marine Institute is also contributing to the project. Silicon Sensing will discuss MAS400 at Stand A307 at Oceanology International in London on March 17-19, 2020.
Silicon Sensing to provide vital data
Silicon Sensing was formed in 1999 and is jointly owned by Collins Aerospace and Sumitomo Precision Products. The company said it is a market leader in silicon, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based navigation and stabilization technology. Silicon Sensing has sold nearly 30 million MEMS gyroscopes and accelerometers to thousands of customers since its formation.
The company said its AMU30 sensing devices will form two vital units within the autonomous vessel‘s navigation suite, constantly delivering precise 3-axis data on angular rate and acceleration plus roll, pitch and heading angles, altitude and pressure, and temperature to the ship’s autopilot.
“We are an official sponsor of this inspirational project and have been contributing our technical expertise for a number of years now,” stated Steve Capers, general manager of Silicon Sensing. “The MAS400 represents a new generation of research ships that will further humanity’s understanding of the ocean. This vessel pushes the boundaries of 21st century marine technology, whilst also being at the heart of the Mayflower anniversary celebrations, based in Silicon Sensing’s home town — Plymouth, U.K.”
AMU30 combines capabilities for new applications
Silicon Sensing said the AMU30 is its first product to combine high-performance MEMS inertial measurement unit (IMU) with a full attitude and heading reference system (AHRS). The device includes a proven 10 degree-of-freedom IMU with a three-axis magnetometer, a pressure sensor, and a sophisticated AHRS algorithm.
This new device has been developed to replace far heavier, larger, and more costly fiber-optic, gyro-based devices, according to Silicon Sensing. It will delivering all-MEMS inertial performance, including exceptional bias stability and low noise characteristics, with a proven, embedded Kalman Filter based AHRS algorithm, said the company.
“An evolution of our established devices, we believe AMU30 has immense potential in applications as diverse as hydrographic surveying, maritime guidance, airborne surveillance, terrain mapping, machine control, inertial navigation and GPS drop-out aiding — and here in autonomous vehicle control,” explained Capers. “As a Plymouth-based operation, we are particularly proud that data from our latest device will help guide this truly impressive vessel.”