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Robot boat sails into history by finishing Atlantic crossing

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SOUTHAMPTON, England — All summer, the small boat drifted steadily eastward across the churning North Atlantic until it neared the Irish coast, where it made history by becoming the first unmanned sailboat to cross the Atlantic.

The SB Met, built by Norway’s Offshore Sensing AS, reached the finish line of the Microtransat Challenge for robotic boats on Aug. 26, two and a half months after setting off from Newfoundland, according to preliminary data.

It’s a milestone that shows technology for unmanned boats is robust enough to carry out extended missions that can dramatically cut costs for ocean research, border security, and surveillance in rough or remote waters. They’re part of efforts to develop autonomous marine vessels such as robotic ferries and cargo ships that could be operating by the end of the decade.

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