Search teams hunting for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have suspended use of autonomous underwater vehicles owing to increasing difficulties with operations in the onset of winter.

But the search strategy has been modified to take into account the expanded zone of interest, which has been doubled in area to 120,000km2.

The changes will enable “continuous search operations” during the winter season, says the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre which is overseeing the hunt for the missing Boeing 777.

Safety of the search personnel is a “priority”, it states: “Searching in the expanded area will commence as soon as possible and will focus search efforts in the south, to take advantage of the last of the better weather in that area.”

While more than 75% of the original 60,000km2 zone has been searched, the southern hemisphere winter is generating stronger swells and gales.

The weather conditions are affecting operations with the AUV which one of the search vessels is using to support the hunt.

Rough seas have complicated the task of launching and retrieving the vehicle, says the co-ordination centre: “The decision has been made to suspend AUV operations in the search area during the winter months.”

Source: Cirium Dashboard