Feeds

Droid sub goes under Antarctic ice on 5000 D-cells

Ultimate Xmas dad challenge

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

An autonomous British robot submarine has just set out on a mission which will see it plunge deep beneath Antarctic ice shelves. Interestingly, the "Autosub" has no truck whatsoever with li-ion, fuel cells, stirling engines, hydrogen peroxide or any other trendy undersea power system: it runs on ordinary torch batteries, 5,000 of them to be exact.

The "Autosub" battery-powered undersea research robot - Pic: BNOC Southampton

Batteries not included.

"People are surprised to hear that it's powered by 5,000 'D' sized alkaline torch batteries," said Steve McPhail of the British National Oceanography Center in Southampton, quoted by Reuters. "[But] this is the most economical way of powering a submarine like this."

The yellow, torpedo-like Autosub is completely autonomous as it cruises beneath the waves taking scientific readings, requiring no communication with the surface. Unlike more common Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) it can justifiably be called a robot. It can go 400 kilometres at depths of as much as 1600m before its thousands of D-cells run flat and it must return to its mothership for fresh ones.

Reuters reports that the yellow subsea robot has just departed from the far southern port of Punta Arenas in Chile aboard the US icebreaker Nathaniel B Palmer, headed out on a 54 day voyage to Pine Island in Antarctica - home to one of the largest glaciers on the freezing austral continent.

"Pine Island glacier and the glacier alongside, the Thwaites, are moving faster than any other glaciers in Antarctica," said Stan Jacobs, chief scientist aboard the research vessel. "They are also accelerating ... You have to start worrying whether the system is speeding up, moving ice more rapidly into the ocean."

Jacobs and colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) believe that sonar images and salinity readings gleaned by Autosub from beneath the ice shelves will help them to understand what's happening to the Antarctic ice. Even if nothing changes, according to the scientists, the glaciers in the Pine Island region normally add ice sufficient to raise sea levels by a quarter of a millimetre to the oceans every year: and the surface ice flow on Pine Island is up to 3.7km per year, rising from 2.4km pa in the 1990s.

"It's taken everyone by surprise," said Adrian Jenkins of the BAS. The scientists told the wire-service that nobody understands the processes behind the faster-flowing glaciers - which is where Autosub and its huge mountain of batteries come in. There's relief in sight for the weary boffins who have to put in thousands of fresh D-cells after each submarine mission, however - no doubt having honed their skills in some cases fitting batteries to festive toys for the kids. Their colleagues back in Southampton are working on a next-gen, rechargeable li-ion version.

Read the Reuters report here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.