Harbor Branch research could help search for missing Malaysian jet with new laser technology

There are still no signs of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet, but new technology being developed and researched at FAUs Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute could help with finding the plane.

A seven million dollar research project funded by Harbor Branch, the Navy, and the Air Force involving lasers to search under the sea is happening at the institute.

"The crash is a tragedy. But if there is a plus side it is that it raises awareness about just how little we know about the deeper parts of the ocean on this planet," Dr. Fraser Dalgleish who is heading up the project said.

Dalgleish and his team are developing powerful lasers that can see through clouded water three times farther than the cameras being used to look for the missing plane.

"The way things are going now, it will likely take months from the size of the search area they currently have," Dalgleish said.

Researchers use a huge tank full of water and seventy thousand black balls to stop the light from coming into the water as part of their research.

There is total darkness just like the ocean floor where the Malaysian Jet could be.

"It gets baffled with the rough black surfaces and traps the light," Dalgleish said.

Researchers say getting the lasers to search crews in the Indian Ocean is at least a year away unless they can get more funding and attach the lasers to robots.

"Vehicles like the Blue Fin 21 move over the seabed to form an image very quickly one pixel at a time," Dalgleish said.

Harbor Branch also has a manned submarine that was used to look for debris from space shuttle Challenger in the 80s.

But new technology with unmanned robots can make the searches more efficient.

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