The miniature submarine, which is only five metres in length, is reported to have completed its first mission in a search for flight MH370’s black box flight recorder on the seabed in the Indian Ocean.
Bluefin-21, which was built by MIT spin-out Bluefin Robotics in Massachusetts, has accurate sonar equipment which can scour the ocean bed centimetre by centimetre.
The miniature submarine is likely to be using a 455 kHz side scan sonar which provides 10cm resolution along track and a 7.5cm resolution across track out to 75m, and up to 150m with reduced resolution.
Self-contained inertial navigation plus compass for <0.5% error.
The technical details of the autonomous submarine are:
|Endurance||25hr at 3knots with standard payload|
|Energy||13.5kWh Li-po, pressure-tolerant|
|Propulsion||Steerable ducted thruster|
|Navigation||Inertial ≤ 0.1%|
|Antenna||GPS, RF, Iridium|
|Communications||RF, Iridium, acoustic.
Ethernet via cable out of water
|Self-protection||Independently powered fault and leak detection,
drop-weight increases standard 7.3kg buoyancy,
acoustic transponder, light strobe, RDF and Iridium.
|Software||GUI-based operator tools|
|Data||4Gbyte flash drive for vehicle data
+ payload storage
|Payload options||EdgeTech 2200-M 120/410kHz side scan sonar
EdgeTech 230/850kHz dynamically focused
EdgeTech DW-216 sub-bottom profiler
Reson 7125 400kHz multi-beam echosounder
Bluefin-21 was being operated by the US Navy off the Australian vessel Ocean Shield.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.