The technology behind the search

Using state-of-the-art technology Fugro has equipped its three specialist vessels with proven survey equipment widely used in the industry and ideally suited for the challenging conditions encountered in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

  • Overview
  • Deep Tow Sonar vehicle
  • AUV Echo Surveyor VII
  • Multibeam Echo Sounder

Fugro have mobilised 3 vessels, 4 deep tow sonar systems, 1 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and over 100 dedicated and experienced staff, to carry out the largest ultra deep survey ever undertaken and to search the area for the missing MH370 flight. 

Deep Tow Sonar Vehicle

The deep tow sonar vehicles on the Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator vessels, are equipped with various equipment including sonar, multibeam, HD cameras and hydro carbon sensors capable of detecting minute quantities of oil in the water. Supplied by leading manufacturers, this equipment is proven, reliable and widely used all over the world.

Instrument room of the Fugro Equator vessel

All the data from the deep tow sonar vehicle is transferred via fibre optic cables to the instrument room on the vessel where it’s assimilated to create an image of the seafloor. Data is viewed and quality controlled real-time by operators, it gets logged, backed up and streamed back to the Australian Government in near real-time to enable them to stay informed and in control at all times.

Bridge of the Fugro Equator vessel

At the heart of the vessel is the Bridge, equipped with various equipment including all the navigation and high precision positioning systems providing up to sub 5 cm positioning to ensure the safe navigation of the vessel and the deep tow sonar vehicle.

The EdgeTech Deep Tow Sonar vehicle used in the MH370 search is a fully integrated deep tow towfish combining a side scan sonar and sub-bottom profiler, from the world-leading manufacturer in side scan sonar systems.

It is a 3.5 m long sonar vehicle rated to 6,000 m which also contains amongst various pieces of equipment, a mounted Kongsberg EM2040 multibeam echo sounder also rated to 6,000 m, and a Kongsberg Ultra Short BaseLine system, USBL acoustic beacon, to communicate location by pulsing sound to the surface.

A sound velocity profiler provides environmental data, and an altimeter and inertial navigation system, provide height and location from the seafloor, respectively. 

Find out more about the towfish and how it communicates data back to the vessel instrument room and bridge in the videos below:

 

The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), Echo Surveyor VII is a state-of-the-art Kongsberg Hugin 100 specifically designed for high resolution and efficient survey operations in deep water and remote locations.

Operating without an umbilical it is able to move quickly and quietly collecting data at very high data-to-signal ratio. It features amongst various equipment a high resolution camera, an enhanced sub-bottom profiler for deep penetration, an enhanced high resolution full spectrum side scan sonar and a Kongsberg EM2040 multibeam echo sounder.

Echo Surveyor VII Flyer

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The EM 2040 multibeam echo sounder manufactured by Kongsberg, a true wide band high resolution multibeam echo sounder, is the ideal tool for high resolution mapping and inspection applications. It has dual swath capability allowing for sufficient sounding density at a reasonable vessel speed.

 The multibeam transmits sound in an array underneath the tow fish in a wedge form,  providing 400 observations underneath the vehicle.  At 6,000 m it provides a full insonification of the sea floor a kilometre out from the starboard and port side, and underneath the towfish or AUV.