Belgian world premiere: an unmanned solar boat crosses the Atlantic Ocean
In September 2021, the 4-meter-long drone ship Mahi 2 left La Coruña, Spain. Against all odds, on 15 March 2022, after a journey of 8,000 km, it ran aground on a beach in Martinique, on the other side of the Atlantic. It was powered entirely by the sun and according to the GPS coordinates entered in advance.
Six civil engineering students from KU Leuven worked on this project for six years. In addition to their studies, they had the desire, time and complementary skills to give the Mahi project a good chance of success. Admittedly, the satellite connection failed some 1,300 km before the planned final destination of Guadeloupe. They feared the worst. Then, a few weeks later, a photo of the stranded drone arrived. They immediately boarded a plane for the Caribbean to recover the data and plan the - now completed - return of the device
It has therefore been demonstrated that an unmanned solar-powered ship can cover thousands of kilometres perfectly on the open sea and, at the same time, collect atmospheric, oceanographic and other data of importance for scientific research. No fewer than two terabytes of underwater images and sounds have made the crossing to Belgium.
They undoubtedly mark the beginnings of successful, large-scale automated shipping.