USM Stennis technology used to find plane debris

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The search for that missing Malaysian Airliner flight 370 is still underway in Southeast Asia. Hydrographers at the USM's Marine Research Lab at Stennis Space Center have been paying close attention to the massive search effort underway.

Students at the Stennis Lab are learning to use the same search equipment that will likely find the missing plane. A multi beam sonar system, side scan sonar and a remotely operated vehicle - All of the equipment is mounted on ships or boats.

"The side scan sonar is the most likely piece of equipment to find the debris from the Malaysian airliner," said USM Instructor Max Van Norden.

The multi beam sonar will be used to show searchers exactly what's on the floor of the ocean. The side scan sonar will produce detailed images of the debris found.

"It uses sound to take a picture of the bottom. It's actually towed close to the bottom to give a side view of objects," explained Van Norden. "Think of it as if you're looking at a telephone pole. It's much easier to see that telephone pole from the side than directly over the top of it . So it uses that technology to map a debris field."

A larger version of the remotely operated vehicle owned by USM will likely be the tool used to retrieve the critically important black box.

"They will have to use equipment such as the ROV here to actually bring up the black box from the bottom. These things have cameras and lights and little manipulators like this to pick up things," Van Norden said.

Van Norden said finding debris from the plane will be a tedious process. But until that happens, many questions will go unanswered.

Hydrographic Science program at USM's Research Lab at Stennis is a year long course for graduate students who are seeking a masters degree in the science of mapping ocean floors.

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