Digital cameras help locate Air France crash wreckage

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Nearly two years after Air France flight 447 crashed between Rio de Janeiro and Paris, France's air accident investigators have finally discovered the wreckage of the aircraft 600 miles off the Brazilian coast.

Remus 6000 unmanned submarines discovered the location of the aircraft at 3,900m depth transmitting images of the wreckage with Pike digital cameras from Allied Vision Technologies (AVT).

Flight 447 went down on 1 June 2009 after taking off from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France when flying through a severe thunderstorm. All 228 passengers and crew members died in the crash. The exact causes of the accident are still unknown.

The search campaign undertaken on 22 March 2011 finally located the wreckage. Three Remus 6000 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) were used to explore the sea floor with sonar detectors. The search was conducted under the supervision of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts on behalf of the the BEA (Bureau d'Enquête et d'Analyse), France's air crash investigation authority.

Using on-board Pike F-421B digital cameras from AVT, the UAVs could transmit images of the aircraft to investigators. The Pike F-421 is a high-end FireWire camera for industrial and scientific imaging. It is fitted with a Kodak monochrome CCD-sensor delivering high-quality, low-noise images for demanding applications.

The discovery is a major step to elucidate the causes of the Air France crash. Now that the wreckage has been located, officials are confident that the flight recorders can be recovered along with the aircraft, which could give indications of the causes of the crash.

The BEA announced on 8 April 2011 that phase five of the investigation will involve recovering all parts of the aircraft and hopefully the flight recorders. This mission will be undertaken by another ship, the Ile de Sein and directed by the BEA.

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