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How the Bluefin-21 Searches For Flight 370 Wreckage on the Ocean Floor (Infographic)

Diagrams show how Bluefin-21 sub scans the ocean floor.
Unmanned submersible uses sonar to scan the ocean floor and return a 3D map to the surface. (Image credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

The search for the remains of Flight 370 uses the Bluefin-21 modular autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The submersible combs the floor of the ocean with sonar, mapping any objects it finds as it travels along its search pattern. 

Length: 16.2 feet (5 meters)


Weight: 1,650 lbs. (750 kilograms)


Maximum Speed: 5 knots


Endurance: 25 hours at 3 knots


Deptah rating: 14,763 feet (4,500 m)


The torpedo-shaped Bluefin AUV is programmed with a search pattern with overlapping loops like that of a lawn mower. The AUV  is launched from a ship, then uses Iridium satellites to fix its position in three dimensions. Once at the ocean floor, the AUV begins scanning with its sonar to create a 3D map.