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An Unmanned Robot Boat Heading for Portugal Is Now a Ghost Boat

The Solar Voyager was trying to cross the Atlantic.

What was to be a record-breaking transatlantic journey by the autonomous robot Solar Voyager has hit a major snag that has set the unmanned boat adrift off the coast of Nova Scotia, near Sable Island, according to the CBC.

Solar Voyager started its slow voyage across the sea earlier this month when it took off from Massachusetts, en route to its final destination in Lisbon, Portugal. The 18-foot long, two-and-half-foot wide boat was built of sturdy aluminum that would hopefully be able to withstand the beatings of oceanic travel without the need for human repair. The little blue ship is entirely powered by an array of solar panels that make up most of its deck space. If it could complete its trip, the Solar Voyager would have not only been the first unmanned boat to successfully cross the Atlantic, but also the first solar-powered one to do so.

Unfortunately, the sea is a harsh mistress and the ship has run into trouble off the coast of Nova Scotia. As reported on CBC, the ship, which pings its GPS coordinates every 15 minutes or so, had traveled a little over 600 miles up the coast when it stopped, assumingly getting its propeller tangled in a fishing net. Unable to directly control the boat, the researchers temporarily shut it down to let it naturally drift closer to shore in the hopes that a fisherman might be able to rescue the vessel on a routine trip.

For now, the world’s first robot boat has become just another ghost boat.