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Fischer Panda UK powered Mayflower embarks on unmanned Atlantic crossing

Fischer Panda UK - MAS from above I Credit Tom Dickenson for ProMareIBM
Fischer Panda UK - MAS from above I Credit Tom Dickenson for ProMareIBM

Fischer Panda UK’s electric drive system and generators are currently powering the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) on its historic maiden voyage across the Atlantic.

On course to arrive in the US in early July after setting sail on 15th June, the world’s first fully automated vessel is equipped with a Fischer Panda hybrid-electric propulsion system which will be primarily charged by wind and solar energy, giving unlimited range in equatorial sunshine and breeze. Fischer Panda diesel generators will offer backup should conditions be less ideal.

The 5-ton, 50ft trimaran MAS is expected to make the crossing from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts in approximately 20 days at speeds up to 10 knots – a huge leap from the original Mayflower’s 60 days at 2.5 knots over 400 years ago.

The Fischer Panda UK equipment will play a key role in the success of the inspirational project to test and advance innovative AI and data-gathering technology which promises to transform ocean-related industries in the future.

This project will have huge implications for the maritime industry and we will be watching the Atlantic crossing avidly along with the rest of the world. We are seeing unmanned vessels play an increasing role in many different sectors, with interest in our systems for these applications continuing to grow. We are proud to see the reliable Fischer Panda equipment onboard Mayflower, alongside some of the most innovative systems and advanced AI technology.
Barry Fower, Managing Director at Fischer Panda UK

The robot research vessel, developed by marine research organisation ProMare with IBM acting as lead technology and scientific partner for the project, was launched on 16th September last year and has undergone several months of sea trials.

Fischer Panda UK’s motors, batteries, diesel generators, and associated power and control electronics are among an array of sophisticated equipment onboard. Designed to provide a safe, flexible and cost-effective way of gathering data about the ocean, the sleek vessel also features an AI Captain and is fitted with precision inertial navigation, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning, radar sensors, satellite communications, meteorologic instrumentation, cameras and radar to enable the quest for data and discovery on whale populations, sea levels, microplastics and other research topics.

MAS is a collaborative initiative led by ProMare, a non-profit charity established to promote marine research and exploration throughout the world. The vessel is designed by Whiskerstay and MSubs, both companies with extensive experience developing manned and unmanned marine vehicles, while the Universities of Plymouth and Birmingham are also involved, respectively working on some of the research pods and virtual/augmented reality systems.

We wanted to buy an end-to-end hybrid drive that was fully integrated and tested by the manufacturer and we knew would work. We’ve used Fischer Panda in the past for our military work and found them to be very reliable.
Brett Phaneuf, ProMare Co-Founder

The equipment installed and commissioned by Fischer Panda UK’s engineering team comprises:

  • Two 48V DC generators – a 22kW Fischer Panda AGT 22000 and a 4kW Fischer Panda AGT 4000. Both generators are in ‘PVM’ format, with a dry exhaust. This removes the need for a raw water intake, a potential source of leakage or corrosion.
  • Two 48V Fischer Panda 20kW 600rpm Easybox shaft motors.
  • A Mastervolt Mass Combi 48/3500-50 Inverter and Charger, supported by a battery management system for control and monitoring.
  • A 38.4kWh battery bank consisting of eight of the new Mastervolt MLi Ultra 5500 Lithium Ion batteries, providing 800Ah at 48V.

With no human captain or onboard crew, MAS has been designed as a platform which is suitable for many years into the future for deepening understanding of critical issues such as climate change, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. In parallel, the development of marine autonomous systems promises to transform the shipping, oil & gas, telecommunications, security & defence, fishing & aquaculture industries.

The MAS project can be followed on Mas400.com, a live mission portal that enables the world to receive updates on its voyages.

Fischer Panda UK will be exhibiting at The Green Tech Boat Show, 19-20 June at Queen Anne's Battery in Plymouth. Limited free tickets are still available at mdlmarinas.co.uk/gtbs.

For more information about Fischer Panda UK’s range of products, visit fischerpanda.co.uk.

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