Yacht aims for first unmanned Transat

A robotic yacht has left Ireland to begin an attempt to become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic.

Scientists at Aberystwyth University have developed the 3-metre boat, Pinta, with on-board sensors and a GPS, so she can sail a computer-set course to the Caribbean, which should take at least three months.

But the team behind the challenge do not expect Pinta to reach her final destination.

Dr Mark Neal, from Aberystwyth University, said: ‘I don’t think Pinta will succeed because there are some horrible weather conditions out there.

‘There are 35 to 40 knot winds and the remnants of a hurricane.’

The boat is making the crossing as part of the Microtransat Challenge, which has previously run robotic yacht events on a French lake and in the Irish Sea.

The aim is to build robots that can survive for a long time in hostile environments.

The challenge’s first Atlantic crossing was planned for last year, but all the participants, bar one, withdrew their entry and it was cancelled.

Dr Neal said: ‘We’re the only team taking part this year. A team from Brest pulled out at the last minute partly because of the weather conditions.

Pinta will probably capsize. It is waterproof, but it won’t survive the continual flipping over.

‘At this point it could well turn out to be the world’s first robotic sailing boat shipwreck.’

Dr Neal, who was helped by Phd student Colin Sauze, said the yacht was crafted from a child’s dinghy and ‘second-hand and cheap parts’.

Powered by small solar panels, the boat is programmed to sail the race course, but will be propelled by just the wind.

To follow Pinta‘s progress visit www.microtransat.org/tracking.

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