Undersea Robots Find Plane Wrecked in 2009

Greg Tito

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Undersea Robots Find Plane Wrecked in 2009

Robots designed to operate at sea depths up to 3.73 miles have found the remains of Air France Flight 447.

Perhaps our benevolent robot overlords have a soft spot in their cold hard-wired hearts after all. Air France Flight 447 crashed off the coast of Brazil as it flew en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1st, 2009. A few days later, two bodies and some debris containing a ticket issued for the flight were found, but otherwise very little is known about what happened aboard the plane before the accident. Three separate searches had been unsuccessful in finding the wreckage, but today a mission led by the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute from Massachusetts reported that it had found the plane, providing some amazing images.

[gallery=180]

The WHOI used three REMUS 6000 autonomous robots to search the ocean floor in a "lawnmower" pattern. The robots moved along the floor and recorded data using radar for 20 hours before surfacing. Scientists then downloaded the data and sent the robots back down to look closer at any anomalies.

The pictures the REMUS 6000s recovered showed the plane's landing gear and parts of the fuselage. The expedition has yet to find the "black box" that holds all of information leading up to the plane's malfunction, but authorities are confident that it will be located soon. The French agency investigating the crash, the Investigation and Analysis Bureau (BEA), also said that bodies were seen on the ocean floor and that it would work on bringing these to the surface for a proper burial.

While the crash of Flight 447 is a tragedy, I'm glad that technology has progressed enough to allow us to find the wreckage relatively quickly (it took 73 years to find the Titanic, incidentally also a joint French-American venture led by Dr. Robert Ballard of WHOI.) I'm also glad that the families of the 228 people who perished can have some explanation and closure.

All thanks to the robots from Wood's Hole, Massachusetts.

Source: Layer 8 [http://www.bea.aero/en/enquetes/flight.af.447/images.du.site.php]

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Ogargd

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It's good to see this happening, hopefully a lot of comfort will be brought back to the families who wish to know how their loved ones died.
 

The Apothecarry

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SCIENCE WINS AGAIN! Good to see that it's being used for good and not evil.

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The Rogue Wolf

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For a relatable scale on how awesome this is: Oceanic pressure tends to increase by 1 atmosphere (15psi) per 33 feet of water. 3.73 miles is 19,694 feet. Therefore, the pressure at this depth would be 8951psi- almost four and a half tons PER SQUARE INCH OF SURFACE. In comparison, the deepest SCUBA dive on record is 1,044 feet, and required a 12-hour staged return to the surface to prevent decompression sickness.
 

Bretty

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I could only imagine the need for closure by the families here.

It is my hope that they will be able to bring their loved ones home.
 

Adzma

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I'm actually quite surprised they fronted the money for this. Deep sea dives are incredibly expensive. Still, maybe we might finally learn the secrets behind 447's crash.

DON'T FLY AIRBUS
 

Hero in a half shell

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Hmm, for some reason I read that as Undersea robots find plane wrecked in 2090, and my tired brain for a second went crazy thinking "time travelling undersea robots! woohoo!"

I think I need to go to bed.
 

Branches

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I always wanted to be a scientist at Wood's Hole Institute. They're good stock.
 

Anarchemitis

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Once the Black Box is found, research will lead to the most reasonable answer that can be given from the evidence, and safety protocols will be adjusted accordingly. Every plane crash ever, has contributed to the safety of flying. Which has led to a rather disturbing addage used by pilots:
"The pages of Flight Safety are written in blood."
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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It was quick simply because of the coalition of interests that don't want you to realize that the actual plane disappeared and the people are currently out on a mysterious island that was the subject of a certain show created simply to generate plausible deniability so any leaks will be easily dismissed as fiction....

Come on you don't REALLY believe we just happened to find this plane from a couple years ago with a robot... do you? do you? DOOOO YOU? :p


... oh and while cool, I'm not sure if I consider these things robots because I don't believe they are truely autonomous, more like drones. We've had them for a long time, and I think they actually sent one into The Titanic at least once to take pictures. That makes it a tool more than anything. All hype aside, I think they are simply programmed to run patterns and then when it comes to anything complicated people take control.
 

aashell13

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Therumancer said:
... oh and while cool, I'm not sure if I consider these things robots because I don't believe they are truely autonomous, more like drones. We've had them for a long time, and I think they actually sent one into The Titanic at least once to take pictures. That makes it a tool more than anything. All hype aside, I think they are simply programmed to run patterns and then when it comes to anything complicated people take control.
You're correct, but 'robot' refers to lots of things besides fully autonomous machines. autonomous vehicles, drones, tele-ops, they're all referred to loosely as robots, even by the engineers and technicians who design and build them. Also as you pointed out, the same machine can have several different operating modes including tele-op and autonomous survey.

I'm curious to see what the final cause is determined to be. Some of the initial reports I read indicated that the aircraft impacted level and intact, and the debris pattern appears consistent with that.
 

Galliam

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Those pictures creeped me out for some reason. BUT, this is a very cool use for robots, and Im glad to see that we're getting some productive use out of robots before they kill us all. Glad that we could find the plane.
 

samsonguy920

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Considering this is an airliner which nobody knew what in the world happened to, this find is astronomically awesome. The Titanic took so long to wait for the technology to get so deep to where it was. Otherwise we knew what happened and where it was.

A fair example? Bring up Google Earth, and find an airport nearby a stadium. Focus on one plane in the airport and zoom out until the plane is just a pixel. Comparing the sizes then and what you can see in clear air is a decent comparison of how unlikely finding the plane underwater compared to a large ship strewn over a larger body of undersea land.

I bet WHOI is aching to do some work around the Bermuda Triangle.
Galliam said:
Those pictures creeped me out for some reason. BUT, this is a very cool use for robots, and Im glad to see that we're getting some productive use out of robots before they kill us all. Glad that we could find the plane.
Seeing the underwater shots of the Titanic are haunting beyond belief. When they came across a doll, the researchers' first thought was it was a body. That's creepiness times a thousand.
That there could be bodies in the airliner wreckage is a bit of a godsend, but recovery is not going to be a fun job.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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The wreckage is likely spread out over several square kilometers. It will take them about a year to cover that much area, if the funding holds.
 

GrizzlerBorno

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Not to seem like a douche bag... but "LOST"

Had to be said.

Any....way.....can a black box Survive THAT much pressure for that long a time? Also, why don't they make those things buoyant?
 

Pistachio101

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I didn't take a look at the images in fear of it showing one of the bodies the article mentions. I sort of new someone who was on the flight and well...I don't really want to have nightmares.