A robotic sailboat that vanished in a storm on its way from Newfoundland to Ireland has been found near Florida, much to the relief of the B.C. students who launched it nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

The so-called sailbot, which was built by students at the University of British Columbia, was designed to self-navigate a route across the Atlantic Ocean from N.L. to Ireland in 2016. However, the autonomous vessel ran into a storm along the way and disappeared off students’ trackers.

A U.S. research vessel recovered the drifting sailbot, dubbed Ada, off the coast of Florida on Friday. The crew brought it onboard and quickly determined through an online search that it was a UBC project gone awry.

“Somewhere along the way it became disabled and lost its sail,” researcher Jennifer Miksis-Olds, of the University of New Hampshire’s marine science and ocean engineering department, wrote in a blog post.

Miksis-Olds says the vessel will be transported home after her own research mission returns to port on Dec. 15.

UBC called the news an “early Christmas present” in a news release on Monday.

UBC students initially launched Ada on Aug. 16, 2016. They lost contact with the five metre-long sailbot approximately two weeks after launch, when it abruptly turned south and disappeared some 800 kilometres from the nearest coast. The Ada team said at the time they had little hope of recovering their boat, because it disappeared in waters where only cargo ships and tankers are known to travel.

The team says Ada ultimately set a record for the longest distance autonomously sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

An interactive map on the UBC Sailbot team’s website shows the robot’s progress across the ocean prior to disappearing.

The team is currently working on a new vessel, dubbed Ada 2.0, based on the original Ada designs.