Robotic submarine to search for MH:370

Teams searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane would, for the first time, press into service, a robotic submarine, BBC reported.

Robotic submarine to search for MH:370

Hopes of finding the remains of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight were rekindled, as the search zone for flight MH370 has narrowed down to 1,300 sq km, after more audio signals consistent with the plane's black box were detected from the depths of the Indian Ocean  last week (See: Fresh hopes of finding remains of missing flight MH370).

According to search chief, Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the Bluefin-21 drone would be deployed at the earliest, to search for wreckage on the sea floor.

Teams had been using a towed pinger locator for listening to signals from the plane's "black box" flight recorder. However, no new signals have been heard since 8 April, even as concerns increased that the flight recorders' batteries had expired.

Flight MH370 that went missing on 8 March with 239 people on board was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers over the South China Sea.

According to Malaysian officials citing satellite data, the flight had come to an end in the southern Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometres off course.

An international search had focused on waters west of the Australian city of Perth, and teams raced against time to detect signals before the flight recorder batteries - which last about a month - run out.

According to Houston, who heads the joint agency co-ordinating the search effort, given no signals had been detected in six days, it was time to go underwater.

He said that in the hunt for the plane's black box transmissions the last signal was logged six days ago.

Meanwhile, an oil slick had also been spotted in the search area, according to Houston, with two litres of fuel collected for testing, AFP reported.

AFP reported Houston as saying, he stressed the source of the oil was yet to be determined but the oil slick was approximately 5,500 metres downwind ... from the vicinity of the detections picked up by the towed pinger locator on Ocean Shield.

Though it would be a number of days before the oil could be conclusively tested ashore, Houston said he did not think it was from a search vessel.

He pointed out that it was 38 days since the Boeing 777 vanished on 8 March and the black box batteries had a shelf life of only 30 days.

The seabed would now be scoured by US-made Bluefin-21, a 4.93-metre (16.2 feet) long sonar device.

The sonar device, weighing 750 kilograms, is capable of operating at a depth of 4,500 metres which roughly corresponds to depth of the ocean floor where the pings were detected.