Five Robotic Underwater Drones Found Sub Wreck on Ocean Floor

After a year-long search, the wreckage of the missing Argentine submarine ARA San Juan (S-42) was found by Texas-based underwater mapping firm Ocean Infinity.

The sub was found resting in a ravine about 3,000 feet below the surface, about 323 nautical miles east of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Atlantic Ocean.

San Juan’s crew of 44 sailors were in a German-made TR-1700 submarine with diesel and battery power.

Ocean Infinity will receive a $7.5 million bonus for finding the sub. Ocean Infinity had committed to conduct the search operation for up to sixty days, and to take on the economic risk of the search, only receiving payment if the submarine was found.

Ocean Infinity was brought to help the search because of the advanced sensors and imagery it employs on its fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The firm was nearing the end of the first of two contracted 60-day search windows when it zeroed in on a promising sonar hit Friday afternoon.

Ocean Infinity used five Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to carry out the search, which was conducted by a team of approximately 60 crew members on board Seabed Constructor. In addition, three officers of the Argentine Navy and four family members of the crew of the ARA San Juan joined Seabed Constructor to observe the search operation.

Ocean Infinity’s permanently mobilized ocean search capability is the most technologically advanced in the world. Their AUV’s are capable of operating in water depths from 5 meters to 6,000 meters and covering vast areas of the seabed at unparalleled speed. The AUVs are not tethered to their host vessel during operations, allowing them to go deeper and collect higher quality data for the search. They are equipped with a variety of tools including side scan sonar, a multi-beam echo-sounder HD camera, and synthetic aperture sonar. In addition, from the host vessel, Ocean Infinity is able to deploy two work class ROVs and heavy lifting equipment capable of retrieving objects weighing up to 45T from 6000 meters.

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