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Underwater probes to search for Flight MH370?

Underwater robotic search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight

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Friday, March 21, 2014, 7:59 PM -

Teams in the southern Indian Ocean are gearing up for a third day of searches surrounding objects that may be related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

A satellite spotted the objects that Australian authorities call the best lead yet on where the missing plane might be.

So far, the search has turned up nothing but water.

Now, officials are looking towards using unmanned, underwater probes to search for wreckage.

The technology has proven useful in the past.

It took years of sweeping the ocean bottom, but it found a downed plane carrying Italian fashion designer Vittorio Missoni, his wife and four others off the coast of Venezuela last year.

It helped find Air France flight 447 after it went missing, locating the wreckage and hundreds of bodies on board. 

It has found ships that sunk decades ago like the Arc Royal.

RELATED: Two Canadians among missing in Malaysia Airlines disaster

These probes even allowed for detailed imaging of the Titanic.

The autonomous underwater vehicles, AUV's as they're called, can go as deep as 20,000 feet, sending acoustic pulses to the sea floor to find debris.

Then, maps are drawn to guide search teams. 

But the search zone needs to be narrowed down first. Many AUV's can only search 20 square kilometres  a day, meaning it would take 4 days to search an area as big as Manhattan.

The equipment works around obstacles so it doesn't get damaged, and maps them so divers don't get hurt.

These types of searches can take months -- or years -- but the payoff is high.

Wreckage that gives clues about what happened, data recorders, and the thing that matters most -- the fate of the people on board.

Pilot Russell Adams searches from a Royal Australian Airforce AP-3C Orion from Pearce Airforce Base during a search mission for possible MH370 debris on March 21, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Justin Benson-Cooper - Pool/Getty Images)

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