Demetrius Pipkin
Malaysian air
missing plane
search and rescue
underwater robot
April 10, 2014

Underwater Robot Seeks Wreckage


Shelby: The world is still searching for that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared more than a month ago. Now Demetrius is here, and the search for this plane is getting pretty expensive, right?

Demetrius: That is right, Shelby. Countries have spent an estimated $44 million on the search so far, and they plan on using some of the most advanced technology in the world. Check this out.

In Quincy, Massachusetts, one of the world’s most innovative deep-sea explorers is being put to the test. This AUV, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, called the Bluefin-21, can descend two-and-a-half miles below the ocean’s surface where few creatures can survive and human exploration is near impossible.

David Kelly: The temperature’s about slightly above freezing. It’s pitch black. The pressure there is the equivalent of having a Cadillac Escalade balanced on your thumbnail.

Demetrius: And if that wasn’t enough, investigators say the ocean floor is believed to be packed with very fine sand called silt, which they estimate could be more than 30 feet deep.

Angus Houston: The soot on the bottom of the ocean can be very thick and things disappear into it and it makes a visual search underwater very difficult.

Demetrius: One of Bluefin’s underwater vehicles is now aboard the Australian vessel Ocean Shield in the southern Indian Ocean. It will search in an area the size of Texas at a rate of about 40 square miles each day.

Kelly: Down there, it’ll run what’s called a lawnmower pattern. It’s just like mowing the lawn at your house.

Demetrius: Using sonar technology to scan the ocean floor, it will create images that researchers will analyze when the craft resurfaces once every 24 hours. But in an area as remote as the Indian Ocean, researchers say the Bluefin is just a starting point.

Hishammudin Hussein: We will continue to search with the same level of vigor and intensity. We owe this to the families of those onboard and to the wider world.

Demetrius: The Bluefin-21 will only be deployed when the signals from the plane’s locator device have been narrowed down to a searchable area or when the signal battery dies completely.

Shelby: We will see how that goes. Thanks, Demetrius.


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