Underwater beacon key to finding Malaysia Airline Flight 370

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Search crews hunting for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 are listening for an acoustic ping emitted every second from an underwater beacon.

Every flight data recorder on an airplane is equipped with an underwater beacon.

“When it gets wet it will activate and turn on until the battery basically runs out,” said Sean Tancey. Tancey is the director of quality for Dukane Seacom, the local Sarasota company that builds underwater beacons designed to lead search crews to missing flight data recorders submerged in water. But the clock is ticking.

“The beacons only last for a little longer than 30 days, so 30-32 days depending on battery life,” said Tancey.

About half that time has already passed since MH370 disappeared.

The beacons, which have a range of two nautical miles, can be heard using underwater microphones pulled by ships.

“Because of the two nautical mile range, if it is deeper than that, then what you would have to do is actually tow a hydrophone in the water down to a certain depth in order to be able to hear [the ping],” Tancey told ABC 7.

Search crews can also use submarines and submersibles to listen for the sound emitted from the beacons. But first, a definite search area needs to be identified.

“We are not searching for a needle in a haystack, we are still trying to define where the haystack is,” said Australia’s Vice Chief of the Defense Force, Mark Binskin.

Employees of Dukane Seacom, like the rest of the world, hope search efforts will lead to the wreckage of the missing flight soon, if only to help give closure to the families of the missing passengers and crew.