Finding Old Sunken Planes Using New Technology

Researching combing the oceans for sunken planes have begun putting new technology toward the effort. These technologies take the form of large drones which mostly pilot themselves. They are similar in some ways to the newer Mars Rover, Curiosity, in that they come equipped with numerous cameras and sensors which aid them in their self-enacted search. So far, this technology has resulted in the finding of at least two sunken planes from WWII.

This technology was initially created for the benefit of general marine studies, predominantly scientific in nature. It is the BentProp Project, which is run almost entirely by volunteers, that began using such robotics to search the waters around Palau for sunken planes. It is no secret that many Americans were shot down over the Pacific while fighting the Japanese during the Second World War, and the BentProp Project is hoping to uncover at least some of their aircraft.

Using the aforementioned “water rover,” known as Remus, BentProp has already performed better than ever before. They uncovered both an F6F Hellcat as well as a TBM Avenger within seven days, a rate of finding previously unprecedented. Using sonar and 3D imaging, the Remus is able to find the precise location of sunken planes from over one hundred feet away. This helps the volunteers to find things in waters where their sight would otherwise be hindered due to lighting and sheer depth. They also use good old-fashioned historical research to help them, sending the Remus specifically to areas in which a crash or missing plane has been reported.

Such reports are important due to the slow-moving nature of the Remus device. They also hone their search using data from more mathematical fields of science, looking at potential flight paths for WWII aircraft and basing their search area around where such aircraft would presumably have landed if shot down. This gives them some idea of where the sunken planes might be. Since BentProp has no aims to cease its search any time soon, this means the number of areas they have to search will be steadily going down, the CNET News reports.

BentProp is pulling out all the stops to find more and more sunken planes, whether using Remus, scientific data, historical records, or even aerial drones to help find crashed aircraft on land. Having found two already, they know many more are out there just waiting to be found. They do not have an estimate concerning how many sunken planes they are hoping to find in one season of searching, but their use of all the tools at their disposal has resulted in much optimism.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE