Drones have joined the hunt for an Indonesian airline which crashed into the ocean shortly after taking off with 189 passengers onboard.
Lion Air Flight JT 610 was a Boeing 737 Max 8 and was only six weeks old. The pilot had more than 6,000 flight hours and on this fateful journey, the plane was in the air for just thirteen minutes before crashing. Minutes after taking off, the pilot Bhavye Suneja called air traffic control to report technical issues and requested permission to fly back to Jakarta airport (a manoeuvre known as a return to base or RTB). He was granted permission but the plane hit the ocean before he was able to complete the return journey.
The cause of the crash is as yet unknown but the day before the accident the plane had experienced technical issues on a flight between Jakarta and Bali. According to the BBC, the captain and first officer had mentioned “unreliable” airspeed readings in their flight log and the captain and first officer had different altitude readings on their instruments. Lion Air claimed the plane had undergone thorough safety checks and the issue had been “resolved.”
Tragically, all people on board the plane are presumed to have died in the crash. Rescue crews have so far recovered passenger luggage, wallets and enough passenger remains to fill at least 26 body bags.
According to CNN, the search area that rescue crews are examining is said to be at least 400 nautical square miles. An extensive search operation involving 35 ships. Drones and sonar are now scanning the area near where the last contact with the plane was made. The fuselage of the aircraft has not yet been located and that contains the plane’s black box. The black box will reveal the last moments of the flight before it hit the ocean and give investigators a window into what happened.
When it comes to surveying large areas of the sea for wreckage, drones offer a distinct advantage over aeroplanes or helicopters: they are much, much cheaper. One hopes the search efforts are able to quickly locate the rest of the plane and figure out exactly what went wrong, so we can avoid this issue ever happening again.