UNMANNED: First Robot Sailboat Completes Transatlantic Voyage

Sailbuoy Met

Who needs crew? Not the Sailbuoy Met, a 2-meter long sailing robot, which recently arrived in Ireland after sailing 80 days non-stop from Newfoundland. Created by a Norwegian company, Offshore Sensing AS, Sailbuoy is the first robot vessel to cross the Atlantic and the first to complete the Microtransat Challenge, a transatlantic race for autonomous vessels. Twenty previous attempts by different teams had ended in abject failure.

 Sailbuoy route

Route of the victor

Check out the Microtransat tracking map and you’ll see there are currently two other robots working to complete the course. SeaLeon, fielded by Dalhousie University of Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been at sea 50 days and so far is a bit less than halfway across. The only American team, Gortobot, based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, released its robot from Cape Ann just two days ago.


Gortobot v3, seen here, looks a bit more agricultural than Sailbuoy Met. Its hull is a kid’s surfboard

Route of Gortobot

Route of Gortobot so far. Looks like it may have changed its mind and is coming home

What’s the point of a robot sailboat? (Or sailbot, if I may coin a term.) Offshore Sensing hopes to use their bots for long-term oceanic observation, as remote communications relay stations, and perhaps for delivering pizza.

You can learn more by watching this thrilling video:


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2 Responses
  1. Anonymous

    When it comes to my end days ,
    I am going to have some one put all 5 of my model sailboats in the ocean and send them on their way.
    I just wonder if an I O M can make the 3000 mile voyage . I will never know.

  2. Nat Howe

    Charles, I saw this posted somewhere else and while this is the first of the vessels registered for this event to successfully cross, it is not the first “robot” sailboat to cross the Atlantic. Check out http://educationalpassages.org . Dick Baldwin started this project 10+ years ago here in midcoast Maine and it has sent numerous robotic mini boats across the Atlantic. Some are likely still sailing around in circles of various sizes. Anyway, credit where due. 😀

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