PERTH, April 19 – The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), codenamed Bluefin-21 continues with its seventh mission in the underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean, on Saturday. The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), which is overseeing the search operation, said the unmanned-vehicle had searched approximately 133 square kilometres to date, since it was dispatched on its maiden mission Monday. “The Bluefin-21 AUV completed mission six overnight in the underwater search area and the data collected is currently under analysis,” the agency said in a statement here Saturday. No contacts of interest have yet to be found. The Bluefin-21, was deployed underwater in the hope of locating any debris from the missing plane, since no further confirmed signals have been picked up by the towed pinger locator since April 8.
It uses acoustic sounds to create a 3D map of the sea floor and takes a minimum of 24 hours to complete each mission, including four hours to download collected data. For Saturday’s mission, the agency said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had planned a visual search area covering approximately 50,200 sq km across three areas. Up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships will be involved in the search area, it said. “The weather forecast for today is isolated showers and south easterly winds,” the agency added. Flight MH370, with 239 people aboard, left the KL International Airport at 12.41 am on March 8 and disappeared from radar screens about an hour later while over the South China Sea.
It was to have arrived in Beijing at 6.30 am the same day. A multinational search was mounted for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, first in the South China Sea and then after it was learnt that the plane had veered off course, in the southern Indian Ocean. After an analysis of satellite data indicated that the plane’s last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on March 24 that Flight MH370 had “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.