Pedal-powered submarine takes to the air

Cycle-sub was designed in Bath (appropriately enough...)

by Tom Henry   March 15, 2010  

A pedal-powered submarine formulated at the University of Bath is to feature on a Channel 5 programme tonight (Monday).

The Gadget Show is to feature the handiwork of BURST (Bath Uni Racing Submarine Team) who, over a two year period, have designed, built, funded and raced pedal-powered subs.

Why, might you ask? Well, Bath is the only entry in the biannual International Submarine Races, held in a U.S Naval base in Washington DC. The competition is based around top speeds and is held in the eight-metre deep, mile-long testing tank at the base, with the top boats achieving in excess of 8 knots, or 9.2mph in old money.

The “SeaBomb” and “Sulis”, the two existing Bath submarines, have both been road tested, so to speak, and in tonight's programme, presenter Suzie Perry will be seen having a go in the Seabomb and even racing it against the other sub the Sulis around the 25m pool at the University.

The project is headed up by Dr. William Megill and is part of the ocean technologies laboratory which carries out research into many different areas, including autonomous underwater vehicles and of course submarines, road.cc contributor Trevor Allen is also part of the team… he'll be stickering the sub up for future voyages.

The sub is about 12 foot long and is completely flooded for safety reasons, meaning the pilot breaths using Scuba equipment. Both submarines use innovative biomimetic propulsion systems. This means they don’t use propellers but whale-inspired oscillating fins to provide the thrust.

As fossil fuels begin to run out, pedal-power is being looked at as a credible and increasingly hi-tech alternative. A New Zealand cyclist has developed a human-powered monorail system based around a recumbent bicycle, impressing visitors queuing up to use it on a 200-metre track in Rotorua, North Island.

Called the Shweeb – the name is derived from the German verb ‘schweben’, which means ‘to float’ or ‘suspend’ – its inventor, Geoffrey Barnet, hopes that the concept may provide a solution for people looking to get around congested cities.

And last year, a Frenchman attempted to cross the English channel using a mini air balloon powered by a carbon fibre bike. He didn't make it, but not for lack of preparation or due to technical failure - the wind put the kibosh on his crossing by unexpectedly changing direction when he was only 11 miles from his destination on the French coast.