The Dong Hai Jiu 101 is back in action. The vessel, which is one of two searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean, ended its months-long break from the hunt this week. It also returned with some new equipment, according to an operational update released Wednesday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
The Dong Hai Jiu 101 finally left port on Oct. 20 after being delayed for months by bad weather. By Monday, it was back in the search area with a remotely operated vehicle on board. The ROV, or drone, will allow the ship to re-examine locations that need more thorough analysis.
Meanwhile, the other ship — the Fugro Equator — briefly visited the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson to get refitted with an underwater robot that will rejoin the search, according to the update. The Hugin 4500 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle was used earlier this year to check the ocean floor for wreckage. The robot and the Fugro Equator were undergoing testing as of Monday.
However, the update wasn't all good news. The weather was forecast to be "marginal" to "poor" this week.
"These conditions may impact the progress of the search operations, as the ROV requires frequent launching and recovery — operations which call for suitable conditions," the bureau wrote.
MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board. Authorities believe the Boeing 777, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, crashed in the Indian Ocean, but an exhaustive search of the sea floor has turned up few results.
Investigators are scheduled to finish checking a predetermined, 120,000-square-kilometer area for debris by February. If no new evidence as to where the plane is has been found by then, the search will be suspended. After that point, "should credible new information emerge that can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given to determining next steps," the bureau wrote.