Friday, August 19

No other auvs better than Bluefin-21 to operate at 4,500m

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PERTH: The Bluefin-21 deployed in the underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean is considered the best autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for such an operation.

Charitha Pattiaratchi, professor of coastal oceanography at the University of Western Australia, said there might be only a few AUVs that could withstand the underwater pressure at depths of 4,500 metres, with the same capabilities as Bluefin-21.

“There are instruments that can go down to similar depths but there aren’t that many. This is the best that we have and we have to work with that,” he said when interviewed by the Malaysian media here.

Bluefin-21 is being deployed in the hope of locating any debris of the missing plane underwater since no further confirmed ‘ping’ signals consistent with those from an aircraft’s black box have been picked up by the towed pinger locator since April 8.

The Malaysian Boeing 777-200 aircraft disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard on March 8.

Bluefin-21, which uses side-scan sonar to create a three-dimensional map to chart any debris on the ocean floor, was deployed on its fifth mission yesterday.

No concrete evidence has yet been found based on data analysis from the unmanned mini-submarine’s previous four missions.

To a question, Pattiaratchi said there were devices capable of going down more than 5,000 metres into the ocean.

However, he said, such vessels operated differently compared to Bluefin-21, including moving at much slower speeds.

The underwater search zone for the missing Malaysian plane is currently a 1,300-sq-km patch of the seabed. — Bernama