KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – A new hunt for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 using high-tech underwater drones has started, officials said yesterday, in the latest bid to solve one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
A ship operated by exploration firm Ocean Infinity arrived at the search area in the Indian Ocean on Monday and launched the drones, said Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.
“The vessel Seabed Constructor has arrived at the search area and commenced the search operation,” he said in a statement.
The jet disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people – mostly from China – on board, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000 square kilometre sea search zone and the Australian-lead hunt, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January last year.
Ocean Infinity struck a deal with the Malaysian government to restart the hunt on a private basis and will only be paid if it finds the jet or its black boxes. It stands to make up to $70 million if successful.
The new search zone is an area of about 25,000 square kilometres in the southern Indian Ocean, north of the former search area. The hunt will last a maximum of three months.
If the company finds the Boeing 777, the amount it is paid will depend on where it was located.
If it is found within the first 5,000 square kilometres, the firm will receive $20 million.
The amount rises gradually to a maximum of $70 million if the jet is found outside the 25,000 square kilometre search zone.
The ship conducting the hunt is a Norwegian research vessel carrying 65 crew, including two members of the Malaysian navy as the government’s representatives.
It is using eight autonomous drones, equipped with sonars and cameras, that will scour the waters for wreckage and can operate in depths up to 6,000 metres.
The families of those who were on board will be kept up to date on the hunt, authorities said.
Only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.