It has become one of modern aviation’s biggest mysteries. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 239 people on board, disappeared on March 8 enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. While theories of the disappearance abound, there seems to be no real data on what caused the Boeing 777 to vanish from air traffic control screens—even as 26 countries join the search.
A number of technology tools, such as sonar imaging, are being deployed to search for the missing aircraft. Sonar imaging sends sound waves into the water and uses echoes to determine the location and density of an object. A hard echo could indicate the metal body of an aircraft. Sonar systems were used to locate Air France Flight 447 in 2011, two years after it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
Other tech tools employed to locate Flight MH370 include listening devices that are being lowered into the water at likely impact points. These will try and pick up pinging sounds from the plane’s black boxes. Helicopters with on-board sensors that can detect small objects, such as debris, in the water are also being used. The US Navy’s Seahawk helicopters have forward looking infrared (FLIR) cameras that are enabling night vision searches. FLIR technology detects infrared radiation emitted from a heat source and can work in complete darkness.
Crowdsourcing, too, is playing a crucial role in the search for Flight MH370. Three million people across the globe have joined the search for the missing plane. The volunteers are combing through satellite images, pixel by pixel, in an effort to speed up information gathering. As on 18th March, 2014—ten days after MH370 went missing—the search area has been close to 24,000 square kilometers, with more images being added daily. The satellite firm leading the effort has asked volunteers to tag anything suspicious—signs of wreckage such as oil slicks, floating cargo, or life rafts—and so far, people have tagged more than 650,000 ‘objects of interest’!
Do you have any other technologies in mind that can help in locating airlines? Please do write in.