KUALA LUMPUR: The Seabed Constructor has begun the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, launching its first submersible early this morning.
The maritime research vessel launched one of its eight Autonomous Underwateŕ Vehicles (AUVs) at 12.55am local time (2.55am Malaysia).
Sources told the New Straits Times the vessel would launch more AUVs at regular intervals.
Malaysia Airlines, it is learnt, informed the next of kin of MH370 crew members of the latest development.
The airline also urged the family members to keep abreast of further information via a website specifically set up for them.
Earlier, Reuters reported that the vessel had arrived in the remote area of the southern Pacific Ocean where the search will take place.
Ocean Infinity Ltd, which was hired to look for the aircraft, has been reported to be confident of locating the Boeing 777-200ER.
The search, which had been suspended for about a year, would take place in a new search area of 25,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean.
Ocean Infinity is conducting the search on a "no cure, no fee" basis, meaning the company does not get paid if it does not locate the aircraft.
According yo the terms of the agreement, the government would have to pay US$20 million (RM82 million) if the debris were found within the first 5,000 sq km, US$ 30 million (RM122 million) for the subsequent 10,000 sq km and US$50 million (RM204 million) for another 10,000 sq km.
Ocean Infinity would be paid a total of US$70 million (RM280 million) for areas beyond.
The search, which would focus on identifying the location of the wreckage or debris field and black box recorders, must however be completed within a 90-day time frame.
MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people, mostly Chinese citizens, aboard.
With no signal from its transponder, it was only later determined that it had tirned back around, flown back across the peninsula and made its way to the Indian Ocean.
So far, only three pieces of debris found in eastern Africa have been confirmed as having a high probability of coming from MH370.
After a search of more than 100,000 sq km, the search was suspended as experts went back to the drawing board to re-examine data available to them.