The final hope of locating wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may come down to a new, deep sea drone which will cruise the floor of the Indian Ocean in the area where searchers believe the plane must have gone down back on March 8, 2014.
The three ships currently searching for the missing plane in an area investigators call the "Seventh Arc" have covered about 5,500 square miles of rugged ocean floor so far — an area about the size of the state of Connecticut.
While the international search team, headed by Australian officials, believes the entire 23,000 square mile area that lies 1,000 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia, can be searched by the end of May, currently the high-tech vessels are looking for the Flight MH370 wreckage using sophisticated cameras lowered by tethered cables nearly four miles down to the bottom of he ocean.
But a fourth ship now joining the search effort, the Australian Fugro Supporter, is equipped with an "autonomous underwater vessel" — in other words, a robot submarine, or drone — known as the Kongsberg HUGIN 4500 which can leave the ship on its own and search the bottom of the sea for any trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 without ties to a ship on the surface.
"The AUV will be used to scan those portions of the search area that cannot be searched effectively by the equipment on the other search vessels," Australian search officials said in a prepared statement.
The drone, with its parent ship, is set to arrive in the remote region of the Indian Ocean where the other three vessels are hunting for Flight 370 debris sometime later in January.
The missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was carrying 239 passengers and crew on what was supposed to be a routine, redeye flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it suddenly cut off all communication with the ground.
Investigators believe Flight MH370, for reasons that remain unknown, then took a sharp westward turn and flew for seven more hours and thousands of miles. Finally, the searchers believe, the errant aircraft would have run out of fuel and crashed violently into the remote Indian Ocean.
But more than 10 months later, not a single shred of physical evidence that would indicate what actually happened to the Malaysia Airlines plane has turned up, creating the single most baffling and tragic mystery in the 101-year history of commercial aviation.
The Malaysian government, however, has vowed that it will never abandon the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 — and the missing people who were aboard the plane.