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UBC’s autonomous sailboat drifting in the Atlantic after mechanical failure

A team of UBC students was hoping to complete the first fully autonomous trans-Atlantic crossing.
A team of UBC students was hoping to complete the first fully autonomous trans-Atlantic crossing. Courtesy: UBC SailBot, Facebook

The historic journey of Ada, UBC’s autonomous sailboat, has been cut short.

The boat was launched off the coast of St. John’s, Newfoundland on course to Ireland on Aug.24 and was meant to become the first autonomous sailboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean on its own.

Sixty-seven students from the UBC sailboat team have been working on the project for the past three years.

On the Facebook page dedicated to the “UBC SailBot” project, the students said on Monday it appears Ada has experienced a rudder control failure that’s probably mechanical in nature and is currently headed south.

The failure appears to have occurred about 800 kilometres into the boat’s journey.

READ MORE: A UBC first? Sailboat designed to cross the Atlantic, alone

The sailboat was equipped with solar panels for fuel and an internal GPS for guidance. It also had two infrared cameras that could detect icebergs or obstacles.

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It was named after Ada Lovelace, who’s considered to be the world’s first computer programmer.

PHOTO GALLERY: Courtesy of UBC SailBot.

Despite the setback, students say Ada has already set multiple records on her journey, sailing further east than any boat that has attempted to autonomously cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The students hope the boat can still be recovered by the Canadian Navy, the Coast Guard or fishing vessels in the area.

“For now, Ada is truly on her own,” said their Facebook post. “We will daily consider the feasibility of a recovery given traffic in the region, but the opportunity for recovery might take several weeks or even months. In the meantime, Ada’s electrical and satellite systems seem to be working fine, and those will remain on to aide (sic) a recovery.”

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WATCH: Global News checked in with the UBC team before the boat’s launch in July. Linda Aylesworth reports.

A UBC first? A sailboat designed to cross the Atlantic, alone.
A UBC first? A sailboat designed to cross the Atlantic, alone.

With files from Linda Aylesworth and Estefania Duran