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

Maxlimer could be the first unmanned surface vessel to make the vaunted crossing—opening the way for a new generation of oceangoing drones, cutting prices and carbon footprints.

David AxeUpdated 08.26.19 10:48AM ET / Published 08.26.19 5:03AM ET 

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.

With no need to support a human crew, a robotic support ship could devote more space to equipment, including a flotilla of smaller drone boats and submarines that it can launch and retrieve. Since it doesn’t get hungry, tired, or sick, it could sail at a leisurely eight miles per hour until it runs out of fuel, potentially nine months at a stretch….

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