The Robot Ship Set to Cross the Atlantic and Change the World

" The blocky, 36-foot-long, yellow- and white-striped vessel bobbing off the coast of the United Kingdom sure doesn’t look like much. But Maxlimer just might be the most important ship in the world right now.

Maxlimer is totally robotic. And it’s poised to be the first unmanned surface vessel, or USV, to cross the Atlantic. The journey could prove the case for a host of new oceangoing drones: crewless cargo ships; unmanned oil tankers; robotic work boats.

But don’t hold your breath. Widespread adoption could take years or even decades.

Maxlimer is a product of SEA-KIT, a maritime tech company based in southeast England. Eyeing potentially lucrative contracts supporting offshore oil and gas drilling, SEA-KIT aimed to produce a flexible ship that’s cheaper and safer than manned ships are.

No extra accidents at sea. No preventable ship collisions in port. Robot ships must result in fewer injuries, not more, in the accident-prone shipping industry. “Every advance towards autonomy must increase safety, otherwise MARAD will not be in favor of it,” the administration stated.

It’s a high bar to clear and SEA-KIT knows it. “Regulation is a major hurdle,” Tinmouth told The Daily Beast.

It’s possible, even likely, that by mid-2020 an unmanned ship will cross the Atlantic. But it could be years until many other robot vessels join it."

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