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​Autonomous subs to make 90-day search for MH370

Undersea mapping firm Ocean Infinity will use autonomous underwater vehicles to search for the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

In a statement, the company says that its ship Ocean Constructor will deploy eight autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that can operate at depths up to 6000m.

The AUVs' sensor suite includes a sidescan sonar, multi-beam echosounder, sub-bottom profiler, high-definition camera, and other sensors.

The company, commissioned by the Malaysian government, will receive no fee unless it finds the missing Boeing 777-200ER. Media reports indicate that it will receive up to $70 million in the event the search finds the aircraft.

News that Ocean Infinity would be employed in the effort first emerged in October 2017, in a statement from Australia's then-transport minister Darren Chester.

The search will focus on an area of the Indian Ocean identified by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau north of the previously searched area. The search is likely to last for 90 days, and Ocean Infinity says it is due to "commence imminently."

Vessel Ocean Constructor is reportedly steaming east from South Africa.

A two-year long underwater search funded jointly by the Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments for the aircraft formally ended in January 2017.

In October 2017, the ATSB's final report on MH370 stated that the possibility of finding the aircraft is "better now than it has ever been."

"The underwater search has eliminated most of the high probability areas yielded by reconstructing the aircraft’s flight path and the debris drift studies conducted in the past 12 months have identified the most likely area with increasing precision. Re-analysis of satellite imagery taken on 23 March 2014 in an area close to the 7th arc has identified a range of objects which may be MH370 debris."

This suggests an area of less than 25,000km² that has the "highest likelihood of containing MH370."

The 777-200ER was operating a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 when it mysteriously turned back over the Gulf of Thailand, and made its way to the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, via the Straits of Malacca. There were 239 passengers and crew aboard.

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