back to article Droid sub goes under Antarctic ice on 5000 D-cells

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 …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They better recycle!

    That's a lot of batteries to recycle!

  2. Paul Slater

    Batteries

    So they're looking at the effects of the current climate change, climate crisis / climate catastrophe / climageddon (take your pick). Let's hope they do the sensible thing and send all those batteries for recycling once they're dead.

    Or maybe they'll do the old trick of just sitting them on a radiator for half an hour then sending the sub out again...

  3. Simon Neill

    This reminds me...

    of one of Jimmy Carr's ideas. "planes should run on AA batteries....just pray the ribbon doesn't get stuck and you have to remove 5,000 batteries with a biro"

  4. TeeCee Gold badge

    Work in Southampton.

    I wonder what's wrong with just replacing the Alkaline "D" cells with off-the-shelf NiMh ones and adding a charging circuit and plug? Ok, nowhere near as interesting as designing a new Li-ion battery pack, but it'd work and cost sod all to do.

    I suppose the main drawback with the existing version has to be when it refuses to work. You just *know* the reason's going to be that someone's put one in the wrong way round......

    (Note to self. Robotic subs make bad Christmas presents.)

  5. thefutureboy
    Unhappy

    I have a kind of battery dyslexia

    Which means I always put at least one battery in the wrong way so the gadget doesn't work...would hate to check several thousand to find the one that's wrong.

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    How does it do this...

    "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."

    If it's batteries are flat, does it have a reserve power source to power it back to the mothership?

  7. Anton Ivanov
    Boffin

    Not surprising

    Anyone who has tried LiIon around 0 (or god forbid in sub-0 temperatures) knows why it runs on classic alkaline. Not really surprising.

  8. Frank

    @Simon Neill re.This reminds me

    '..."planes should run on AA batteries....just pray the ribbon doesn't get stuck and you have to remove 5,000 batteries with a biro" '

    I always use a teaspoon, they are easier to find in the house.

  9. Rob
    Joke

    What a waste

    They should have got rechargeables, uniross could have been the official sponsor and developed the largest plug-in wall socket charger ever created, fast charger obviously.

  10. Allan Dyer Silver badge
    Boffin

    One battery?

    <pedant>Doesn't it have ONE battery, comprised of 5000 cells. The article seems to use battery and cell interchangeably.</pedant>

  11. Peter Kay

    Yellow!

    It's obviously actually looking for the Sea of Green and Pepperland...

  12. Pete Silver badge

    and the next UK Mars mission?

    will use elastic bands instead of a rocket

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    raise sea levels...

    by a quarter of a millimetre to the oceans every year.

    What if we had a "No Peeing in the sea" day for just one day a year.. Would that balance it out?

    I aint no boffin but....

    Dont Water expand when it freezes? So when the Ice caps melt water levels should remain the same or get lower?

    ok ok ill get my coat

  14. Randomyachtie
    Alert

    Lets hope it doesn't suffer from a power failure.

    These things are designed to be positively buoyant, so that in the event of a power failure they can pop up to the surface and activate an emergency transponder letting the mothership know where they are.

    This doesn't really work if you happen to be under several kilometers of ice at the moment the power fails!

  15. Simon B
    Alert

    How to kill the environment ...

    what next? a boat that runs on 50,000 AA's?!!! How to kill the environment ... build one of these subs, bury all the batteries after each run until 2 yrs later and you've killed mother earth!

  16. Jamester

    Re: raise sea levels

    If all the ice was floating it would be different, but as much of the polar ice is on land the good old archimedes effect doesn't apply here. Also, think that archimedes effect would already counteract the difference in volume, its the weight that matters.

  17. Peter
    Boffin

    @Allan Dyer

    Almost...

    Actually one battery COMPRISING 5000 cells.

    If you really want to be pedantic.

  18. Anonymous John
    Joke

    (untitled)

    What do you mean? Batteries not included?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: raise sea levels

    Anonymous Coward wrote:

    "Dont Water expand when it freezes? So when the Ice caps melt water levels should remain the same or get lower?"

    Eureka! If the ice were floating on the water the level would remain the same when it melts. Just ask Archimedes.

    But since the glaciers are moving from the land into the sea, it's a different story.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These are not the trademarks you are looking for

    Didn't you know that George Lucus owns the word droid?

  21. Steve Pettifer
    Boffin

    Pfft, old news...

    Autosub was around when I was a student of Oceanography at Southampton in the mid-nineties and it has always run on D cell batteries because when it was first built there wasn't a sensible alternative. Granted, they are probably right that the exotics are not as economical so there is no point changing, but this hardly makes it a unique story. Add to that the fact that Autosub has been under the Artic ice before and has been doing so since about 2002 (albeit not always successfully - http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2005/autosub.asp), and it all ads up to...a slow news day!!

  22. Jerry

    NASA Astronauts use D-cells as well

    If you scan through the latest Columbia disaster report you get to see interesting snippets including photos of the remains of the crew space suits.

    Peeking out of the shattered cases of the AN/PRC radios installed in each suit are clearly recognizable Duracell D-cells - the classic bought in supermarket types.

    I guess if you want an absolutely reliable battery that works in hard vacuum and extremes of temperature then alkaline chemistry is the perfect match.

  23. Adrian Esdaile
    Thumb Up

    I want one.

    When is Tamiya bringing it out as a kit?

  24. Allan Dyer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    @Peter

    I salute your superior pedantry!

  25. TeeCee Gold badge
    Happy

    What do you get with 5000 "D" cells?

    Presumably it's self-funding from the cash they make knocking out promotional bunnies on teh intatoobz tat bazaar.....

  26. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Joke

    Funding for UK Boffins...

    "...I wonder what's wrong with just replacing the Alkaline "D" cells with off-the-shelf NiMh ones and adding a charging circuit and plug? Ok, nowhere near as interesting as designing a new Li-ion battery pack, but it'd work and cost sod all to do.."

    Actually, Southampton Argos were doing a sale price on pallet-loads of batteries in the run-up to Christmas...

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