France uses robot sub to search for downed airliner's black box

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

LONDON France has deployed an unmanned submarine to search for the data flight recorder of an Egyptian airliner that crashed on Saturday in the Red Sea.

There were no survivors in what has been termed an accident caused by an aircraft mechanical problem.

The French Navy deployed the unmanned Achille underwater vessel to find the black box and other vital components of the Boeing 737 that contained 148 passengers and crew.

The Achille, has been able to operate at a depth of more than 400 meters below the surface. The submarine sends images of the ocean floor via a video camera link.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian state-owned Middle East News Agency reported that the French Navy has found the flight recorder in the Red Sea. The agency, quoting French sources, did not elaborate and French officials refused to confirm the report.

French experts who have overseen the search effort in the Red Sea said the navy has first sought to locate the signal from the data flight recorder. At that point, the underwater unmanned vessel would be sent to retrieve the recorder. France has already sent the Tourville anti-submarine frigate to the Red Sea to help in the search.

The use of autonomous unmanned underwater sea vehicles has been deemed as extremely useful in the shallow waters of the northern Persian Gulf.

France and the United States have collaborated on the development of the Redermor-2 unmanned underwater vehicle and the U.S. Navy has also been developing such vessels to foil enemy mines and insurgency attacks of ports of allied nations.

The French company ECA has developed the K-ster to locate and defuse enemy mines as well as the Epaulard autonomous underwater vehicle.

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