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.

Karl Tate
LiveScience Infographic Artist
Karl has been Purch's infographics specialist across all editorial properties since 2010.  Before joining Purch, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University.