Plymouth Lab unveils long-range autonomous vessel design

UK-based Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) has unveiled a design for a long-range autonomous research vessel that it hopes will help lower the carbon impact of oceanography and advanced international marine research.

M Subs Ltd, the firm behind the IBM-backed Mayflower Autonomous Ship programme, has been commissioned to design an unmanned 24-metre vessel – to be called RV Oceanus.

The design is being supported by seed funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Oceanus will be a self-righting, light-weight, mono-hulled autonomous vessel propelled by two rear-mounted pod drive motors. These will be powered by a battery bank that will in turn be charged by both a diesel-engine-driven generator and deck-integrated solar panels.

The vessel is designed primarily to make the transatlantic sampling voyage from the UK to the Falklands carrying an advanced scientific payload.

PML chief executive Icarus Allen said that “this is a hugely exciting venture, with the capacity to revolutionize the way we carry out marine research expeditions and support the drive towards net zero”.

PML said that the Oceanus represented “a ground-breaking vision of how long-range marine research can be carried out in a more environmentally-benign way”.

The command centre for the vessel will be hosted at PML and will display oceanographic conditions in near-real time.