How a High-Tech Fleet of Robots, Ships, and Planes are Working Together to Find the Titan Submersible

Sonar, marine, and aerial tech are currently on the move.

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Everyone is on the edge of their seat as they await updates on the missing submersible, Titan, which seems to have vanished with its five passengers early Sunday morning. The vessel lost contact with ground control one hour and 45 minutes into its voyage to the ruins of the Titanic in the North Atlantic on June 18. The carbon and titanium craft had 96 hours of oxygen when it disembarked from its mothership, Polar Prince.

Equipment from the U.S., France, Canada, and elsewhere are currently aiding in this rescue mission. All the technology covers a different facet of this high-stakes search.


Sound navigation and ranging, or sonar, is one way to find one’s way through the ocean because sound waves travel further than light waves underwater. Active sonar equipment sends out a signal into the water. If it encounters an object, the wave bounces off of it as an echo, which the sonar transducer receives. It measures the time between when it emitted the sound wave and received the echo to pinpoint the object that returned the wave.

Passive sonar, which more often detects noise from marine objects like submersibles, doesn’t emit its own signal. Instead, it “listens” for sound waves coming toward it. It creates no sound waves of its own. Indeed, some banging sounds that could be the Titan’s passengers made a blip.

Aerial support helps deploy sonar technology through probes. Various aircraft drop the probes into the water at strategic locations where they believe the lost submersible is located.


  1. C-130: This American Coast Guard-flown airplane helps launch sonar probes to detect sounds coming from deep in the ocean.

The C-130 comes with sonar probe capabilities.

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2. P8 Poseidon: The Canadian multi-mission aircraft is known for its speed, which helps narrow down the size of the searchable area and probability when searching for vessels like Titan.

A P-8 Poseidon can help narrow range of search.

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A number of ships also join the mission, carrying their own cavalcade of equipment:

  1. Deep Energy: This pipe-laying ship from the Bahamas can use its industrial capabilities to help find Titan. Meant to install undersea pipes as much as 3,000 meters below surface level, it can help scan the water for the submersible.
  2. The Atalante: This French research ship carries the Victor 6000 autonomous robot, which can dive down to 6,000 meters, deeper than the Titanic’s wreckage at 3,800 meters, according to Reuters. Victor has been in service since 1999. It weighs over 4 tons, possesses high-definition 4K cameras, and is connected to Atalante by an 8.5km cable that conveys 20 kilowatts of electrical power. Victor will likely reach the ruins by Wednesday evening.
  3. The Skandi Vinland: This Canadian offshore multipurpose support vessel, built in Norway, has two inbuilt remote-operated vessels on board to search for the submersible.
  4. The Canadian C.G.S. John Cabot: This offshore fishery vessel comes with sonar capabilities.
  5. His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Glace Bay: This Canadian warship performs search-and-rescue duties, offers a mobile decompression chamber for those coming to the surface, and can carry medical professionals to treat diving-related injuries like the bends.

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