The robotic submarine Bluefin-21 on Tuesday cut short its first mission into the Southern Indian Ocean a day after its launch even as officials later confirmed it would be redeployed in search of the black boxes of missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370. The unmanned submarine, equipped with sonar gear, was deployed late on Monday from the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which has spearheaded the hunt for the Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
Bluefin-21 was able to detect nothing of interest before being forced to automatically abort the mission after breaching its maximum operating depth, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
The Australian agency coordinating the search said the vessel’s dive “exceeded its operating depth limit of 4,500 metres [15,000 feet] and its built-in safety feature returned it to the surface”.
The unmanned Autonomous Underwater Vehicle was undamaged and set for a second sonar sweep during the day, weather permitting, officials said.
Officials said the crew would now refine the task to cope with the depth encountered.
“To account for inconsistencies with the sea floor, the search profile is being adjusted to extend the sonar search for as long as possible,” the U.S. Navy statement said.
The mini-sub will conduct a sonar survey of the seabed for 16 hours at a time.
The U.S. Navy estimated it would take the Bluefin-21 between six weeks and two months to scan the entire search area, which has been deduced using satellite data and electronic pulses linked to black box recorders, last heard a week ago. — AFP