image: shuttleworth design


A pioneering project has been launched to design, build and sail the world’s first full-sized, fully autonomous unmanned ship across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship, codenamed MARS, will be powered by state-of-the-art renewable energy technology, and will carry a variety of drones through which it will conduct a variety of experiments during the crossing.

MARS is being developed by a partnership of Plymouth University, autonomous craft specialists MSubs, and award-winning yacht designers Shuttleworth Design, and is expected to take two-and-a-half years to build.


  • The creation of a  new category in autonomous vehicle design.
  • Operating as a research platform, conducting numerous scientific experiments during the course of its voyage.
  • A test bed for new navigation software and alternative forms of power, incorporating huge advancements in solar, wave and sail technology.
  • It will provide a live educational resource to students – a chance to watch, and maybe participate in history in the making.
  • The spirit of exploration and discovery.

Following a year-long testing phase, the planned voyage in 2020 will also mark the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower sailings from Plymouth to the North American continent.