Authorities, universities and businesses in Flanders on Monday signed a collaboration agreement in the Port of Antwerp to develop energy-independent vehicles in the region. The first project to be supported by the new platform is the Mahi, a drone ship powered by solar energy that is scheduled to cross the ocean in May 2019.
The universities of Leuven, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels are participating in the “Flanders on the Automated shipping Track” (FLOAT) platform. “Vehicle without pilots represent the future and are no longer science fiction,” the port’s chief executive officer, Jacques Vandermeiren, said. “Our ports are the ideal testing ground for that.”
The partners intend to examine ways to develop new technologies and to set up a suitable legal framework. The idea is to enable Flanders to occupy a leadership role in autonomous navigation.
The first result of this collaboration is Mahi, a private project borne by four engineers. This autonomous ship functions on solar power, is four (4) metres long and aims to become the first drone boat to cross the Atlantic. In May 2019 it is to leave France for Guadeloupe, a journey of 80 to 100 hours during which it will collect a series of data that will be transmitted by satellite.