US Navy preps Black Box finder for Malaysia Flight 370 search

Device looks for aircraft emergency pinger acoustic signal which is transmitted to either a Oscilloscope, or Signal Processing Computer

US NAVY
The US Navy is sending an emergency system that will help searchers find the Black Box of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which mysteriously disappeared March 8.

The Navy system will help find the Black Box in the event a debris field of the plane is ever located.

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The system, known as a Towed Pinger Locator 25  (TPL-25) is a 70lb. device designed to hone in on the emergency pingers on downed Navy or commercial aircraft down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet anywhere in the world.

According to the Navy, the system consists of the tow fish, tow cable, winch, hydraulic power unit, generator, and topside control console, although not all of these components are required on every mission.

From the Navy: "Navigation is accomplished by using algorithms incorporating the amount of cable in the water, the depth indication from the pressure sensor and other parameters. The generator provides electrical power for the system or power from the support platform can be used if it is compatible. The tow fish carries a passive listening device for detecting pingers that automatically transmit an acoustic pulse. Most pingers transmit every second at 37.5 kHz, although the TPL can detect any pinger transmitting between 3.5 kHz and 50 kHz at any repetition rate. Commercial aircraft pingers are mounted directly on the flight recorder, the recovery of which is critical to an accident investigation.

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The Pinger Locator is towed behind a vessel at slow speeds, generally from 1 - 5 knots depending on the depth. The received acoustic signal of the pinger is transmitted up the cable and is presented audibly, and can be output to either a Oscilloscope, or Signal Processing Computer. The operator monitors the greatest signal strength and records the navigation coordinates. This procedure is repeated on multiple track lines until the final position is triangulated."

"In the event a debris field is located, we're moving some specialized locator equipment into the area," said Navy Cmdr. Chris Budde, U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer in a statement. "The Towed Pinger Locator has some highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located. Basically, this super-sensitive hydrophone gets towed behind a commercial vessel very slowly and listens for black box pings.

"This movement is simply a prudent effort to pre-position equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area," he continued, "so that if debris is found, we will be able to respond as quickly as possible, since the battery life of the black box's pinger is limited."

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