Boaty McBoatface is preparing to go where no autonomous vehicle has ever gone before.
Sometime in either 2018 or 2019, the remotely operated sub will attempt to become the first undersea drone to complete an Arctic crossing –– traveling under 1,500 miles of sea ice from one end of the ocean basin to the other.
“It represents one of the last great transects on Earth for an autonomous sub," professor Russell Wynn, from Boaty's U.K. base at the National Oceanography Centre, told the BBC. "Previously, such subs have gone perhaps 150km under the ice and then come back out again. Boaty will have the endurance to go all the way to the Arctic."
The robotic sub earned its unique moniker after an internet competition last year to name the new technologically advanced polar research vessel. Boaty McBoatface grabbed more than 124,000 votes, but was ultimately denied as officials were reluctant to give such an important vessel an unusual designation. Instead, the research vessel was named after naturalist Sir David Attenborough and its accompanying drone submarine was given the Boaty name.
"The ship has captured the imaginations of millions, which is why we're ensuring that the Boaty name lives on through the sub-sea vehicle that will support the research crew, and the polar science education programme that will bring their work to life," Science Minister Jo Johnson said in a statement.
According to the National Oceanography Centre, Boaty's undersea expedition will be more than just a marathon crossing. Researchers are currently planning missions for the little yellow sub that's capable of diving to depths of more than four miles, that include the study of deep-sea ocean currents and buried carbon dioxide formations. Since GPS guidance is not reliable underwater, Boaty will also have to learn how to read a map.
“You give it a map of the seabed in its brain and then as it travels, it uses sonar to collect data that it can compare with the stored map," Wynn told the BBC. "This should tell it where it is. It’s a neat concept, but it’s never been tested over thousands of km before."
Wynn also warned fans of Boaty not to get too attached to the little sub due to the serious dangers that can plague undersea autonomous vehicles.
“There could well be some dramas ahead for those people who plan to follow Boaty on his missions," he warned.
As the internet well knows, if anyone can do it, it's Boaty McBoatface. Here's hoping this little robot makes it from one end of the Arctic to the other with flying colors.