AF447: could this be what finds the black boxes

Thumbnail image for C&C AUV3.JPG

A company in Lafayette, Louisiana called C&C Technologies has added some important detail to the way the black-box pinger behaves at the end of its battery life, but more importantly it describes the unmanned submarine that it may use to help the search for the FDR/CVR and sunk debris. C&C say they’ve already been contacted by the investigators to that effect.

The first key fact, which addresses something I’ve been wondering about, is that once the 30-day specified duration of the pinger is reached, it’s expected to die very quickly. It’s a feature of the lithium batteries used. That’s in a week’s time.

The submarine (or autonomous underwater vehicle – AUV) it turns out is a pretty capable beast. It’s untethered, has sonar and camera, and an acoustic link to transmit the sonar and video images to the surface in realtime. Crucially, the most advanced version is rated to 4,500m (15,000ft) depth which is what we’re potentially talking about in the crash area. (Earlier ones to 3,000m)

Full details and pictures below.Here’s the statement that C&C appears to have released to its local TV station:

Air France 447 Search Effort: Phase II Fact Sheet

June 24, 2009

 C& C Technologies, Inc. (C & C) has received inquiries regardingour discussions with the French BEA on the second phase of the AF447search effort.

The following information may help minimize communication errors:

 1)Pinger Life: Dukane, the AF447 pinger manufacturer, has confirmed thatthe pingers may only last a day or so longer than the specified thirtydays. Unlike regular flashlight batteries that fade out slowly, thebattery technology used in the pingers will hold its voltage for thethirty days, and then quickly collapse along with the transmittedsignal.

2) Contact by BEA: The French BEA has contacted C& C by phone and e-mail regarding use of  C & C’s 4,500 meter(15,000 feet) rated autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to perform asonar search for the flight recorders. C & C has two 250 foot (76meter) ships near the crash area equipped with state-of-theart AUVsystems. However, the AUVs on those vessels are only rated for 3,000meters (10,000 feet), and the wreck area approaches 4,500 meters. Ifthe pingers are not found by the end of June, French authorities mayask C & C to send its 4,500 meter rated AUV to Brazil to search themountainous underwater terrain.

3) Comments Regarding BEA’sActions: While the first phase of the search for the flight recorderscontinues, the BEA is making contingency plans for a second phase.Tapping C & C’s world-renowned deepwater AUV search capabilityindicates the French authorities’ commitment to locate the recordersand solve the mystery. Given the complexity of the situation, the BEAis making all the right moves.

4) AUV Description: Like theunmanned drone aircraft used by the military, AUVs are unmanned,untethered, computer controlled underwater vehicles. C & C’s 4,500meter rated vehicle is capable of searching large areas while flying ata constant height off the ocean bottom at four knots for two days at atime before returning to the surface to refuel.

The 6 meter(20 foot) cigar shaped vehicle has an acoustic communications link(wireless underwater telemetry system) that can continuously transmitthe sonar images to a surface ship in real time. Any debris detected bythe AUV can be seen by observers on the ship in real time. The AUV alsohas a camera, so ambiguous sonar contacts can be quickly identified.

 Becausethere is no cable between the AUV and the ship, the AUV can travel morethan twice the speed of ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), which aretethered. C & C’s 4,500 meter rated AUV with mother ship andexperienced scientific crew offers the highest possibility of flightrecorder location if the current pinger locator effort fails. Picturesand video of the AUV can be found at:!

5)C & C’s Background: C & C is the worldwide leader in deepwaterAUV operations. The company has performed more deepwater AUV searchesthan any company in the world, having surveyed enough to encircle theglobe four times. C & C’s AUVs are usually used to performdeepwater oilfield surveys worldwide. C & C has 600 employees andoperates worldwide.

An interesting white paper on the use of the AUV here.

And here’s what it looks like:




2 Responses to AF447: could this be what finds the black boxes

  1. goneflying June 26, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    Interesting technology.
    I wonder what this costs per hour/day/week to hire/operate

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