U.S. Technicians and Undersea Robots Collaborate on Recovery Tasks in Chile

U.S. Technicians and Undersea Robots Collaborate on Recovery Tasks in Chile

By Dialogo
September 21, 2011

On September 15, four U.S. Navy technicians arrived on Juan Fernandez Island, around 600 kilometers from the Chilean coast, to collaborate in the search for human remains and wreckage from the plane that crashed on September 2.

All 21 passengers on a Casa 212 belonging to the South American country’s Air Force died in the accident. Up to now, it has been possible to recover remains of several passengers and part of the aircraft’s fuselage.

In addition to experience in recovery operations at sea, the U.S. team brings with it two undersea robots: a Klein 3000 and a Swordfish MK 18 Mod 1 REMUS, which have joined the efforts of the Chilean Navy and the Chilean Air Force (FACh). “These will improve the already powerful search capabilities of our robots (Proteus 500 and Proteus 1000),” that country’s defense minister, Andrés Allamand, told the press.

The minister also mentioned that the FACh has a third robot that “has stronger gripping arms that could enable us to extract heavy pieces of the plane’s fuselage from the bottom.”

The Klein 3000 and Swordfish MK18 robots are remote-controlled sonar systems that, although they do not recover sunken objects, provide clear images of the sea floor at depths and speeds impossible for a diver. Finding certain parts of an aircraft facilitates the task of determining the causes of an accident.

When news of the accident became public, General Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, who was visiting Chile after attending the annual South American Defense Chiefs Conference (SOUTHDEC), offered to send help if needed. Subsequently, the commander-in-chief of the Chilean Air Force, General Jorge Rojas Ávila, formally requested U.S. collaboration.