Robot joins search for missing Malaysian plane

Robot joins search for missing Malaysian plane

By News 1st

04 Apr, 2014 | 7:49 am

Nearly two dozen ships and aircraft will pick up the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Friday in fair weather and with hopes for a breakthrough in the seas far off Australia.

The day’s search area has been refined to about 217,000 square kilometers (83,800 square miles) of the remote Indian Ocean northwest of Perth, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre reported.

A total of 14 aircraft and nine ships will scan the area, and two ships seen as central to the hunt were expected to reach the zone soon.

The Royal Navy survey ship HMS Echo will be conducting a specific search on Friday, a spokesperson for the Australian Defence Force told CNN. And the Australian naval supply ship Ocean Shield, which is equipped with U.S. technology designed to detect the pings from the flight recorders, was due to arrive in the search area overnight.

HMS Echo has already been searching for sonic transmissions from the flight data recorder in part of the search area. Authorities have said that one alert was experienced but discounted and that false alerts can be obtained from shipping noises or whales.

The Ocean Shield is equipped with the TPL-25, a giant underwater microphone that will listen for the pings from the flight data recorders and the Bluefin-21, an underwater robot that can scour the ocean bed, looking for signs of wreckage.

Underwater operations company Phoenix International has a contract with the U.S. Navy to use a robot called Bluefin-21 to search the Indian Ocean for signs of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

The 21-foot-long robot is capable of staying submerged for 25 hours at a time, deploying its sensors to search and map 40 square miles of sea floor per day.

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But until searchers can find a confirmed piece of debris from the plane, which would give them an idea of where the wreckage might be located, the sophisticated listening technology is of little use.

“Really the best we can do right now is put these assets in the best location — the best guess we have — and kind of let them go,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. William Marks told CNN. “Until we get conclusive evidence of debris, it is just a guess.”

CNN/ Business Insider