The seabed of the Zenith Plateau in the southern Indian Ocean is deeper than the Bluefin-21 drone can dive

Flight MH370: Unmanned submarine hit by technical problems

A technical glitch has halted operations of the Bluefin-21 autonomous submarine searching for the MH370 wreckage during its second mission. 

The Bluefin-21, currently the only tool available to the search teams to move forward with the investigation after the black box batteries ran out more than 30 days after the suspected crash, resurfaced early on Wednesday due to unspecified technical problems.

Sonar data downloaded from the system haven’t shown any promising findings and the drone has later been sent into the depths of the southern Indian Ocean again.

Technical issues, in that case the vehicle's design limitations, also halted the Bluefin-21’s quest on Tuesday as it reached its depth limit of 4.5km, prompting it to return to the surface after only six hours of scanning the seabed.

The two incidents suggest the complex scanning of the area in the Zenith Plateau, already foreseen to take at least two months, might become even more complicated.

The investigators defined a 600 square kilometre region where they believe the ill-fated Malaysian Boeing 777 had crashed, based on four signals intercepted by a towed pinger locator dragged behind Australia’s ship Ocean Shield. The investigators are confident the signals came from the beacons of the aircraft’s two Flight Data Recorders and were captured virtually at the last minute before their batteries expired. Since last week, no new signals have been recorded despite British ship HMS Echo equipped with advanced instruments joining the hunt.

The Bluefin-21 now has to deal with an extremely challenging task of creating a detailed sonar map of a never before explored region in depths on the edge of its technical capabilities.

Surface search operations have continued on Wednesday, covering a wider area where aircraft debris might have been carried by ocean currents. Up to 11 military aircraft, three civil aircraft and 11 ships have joined the  Wednesday's search, covering a total area of about 55,151 square km in rainy conditions.


More on MH370 here

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