April 14th, 2014
05:12 AM ET

No Pings 'In 6 Days. It's Time To Go Underwater'

With no underwater pulses detected in almost a week, Australian authorities said Monday they will stop listening for pings coming from the floor of the Indian Ocean - and will now deploy an underwater vehicle.

"We haven't had a single detection in six days," Australian chief search coordinator Angus Houston said. "It's time to go underwater."

The Bluefin-21 vehicle is expected to be deployed at 5 p.m. Perth time (5 a.m. ET) Monday, the U.S. Navy said. The device is owned by the U.S. Navy.

It's a probe equipped with side-scan sonar - acoustic technology that creates pictures from the reflections of sound rather than light.

Though the discovery of four pings believed to be from the jet's so-called black boxes - its flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder - have helped investigators narrow the search area, they would still face a formidable task.

Houston cautioned against hopes that the underwater vehicle will find wreckage.

"It may not," he said. "This will be a slow and painstaking process."

Each deployment will last 24 hours.

It will take two hours for the Bluefin-21 to get down to the bottom of the ocean. Then it will scour the ocean bed for 16 hours, and take another two hours to resurface. It will take take another four hours to download and analyze the data collected, Houston said.

The first mission will cover an area 5 kilometers by 8 kilometers (3.1 miles by 4.9 miles).

The bottom of the search area is not sharply mountainous - it's more flat and almost rolling, Houston said. But he said the area likely has a lot of silt on the bottom, which can "complicate" the search.

The Bluefin will take anywhere from six weeks to two months to scan the entire search area.

Monday marks Day 38 of the search.

As the story develops, see HERE for more.

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