Cutting-edge machines needed in MH370 search

Cutting-edge machines needed in MH370 search

KUALA LUMPUR - The next phase of the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could see the introduction of new state-of-the-art equipment.

As the search-and-recovery (SAR) team adopts more radical and out-of-the-box approaches towards finding the missing plane, experts believe including vehicles that are usually not the norm in such situations could prove to be advantageous.

This is vital given the challenges posed by the weather and tough conditions in the Indian Ocean.

Universiti Sains Malaysia Associate Professor Dr Mohd Rizal Arshad said the new equipment could be utilised to include a combination of sonar technology and Seismic Reflection Profiling (SRP).

Sonar, or sound navigation and ranging, is used to develop nautical charts, locate underwater hazards for navigation, and for the search and mapping of objects on the seabed. SRP uses sound waves to image underground rock strata and is widely used in oil and gas exploration.

Rizal cited the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) REMUS 6000 and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), or underwater rovers, as new equipment that could complement those which had already been used in the search.

The REMUS 6000 specialises in deep ocean search-and-survey and sea-floor mapping, producing highly accurate images. The device has been designed to enable operations at depths of 6,000m, compared with the Bluefin-21, which could only reach depths of 4,500m.

It is also known to have better stability underwater compared with Bluefin-21, which is prone to shifting locations due to rough underwater currents.

"Its versatile design allows long mission duration in shallow littoral areas," said Rizal, who specialises in underwater robotics technology.

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