An Australian aircraft detected a possible signal in the southern Indian Ocean Thursday, giving officials more assurance in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The Australian Navy P-3 Orion, which has been dropping sound-locating buoys into the water where previous signals were detected, picked up a “possible signal,” said Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search off Australia’s west coast.
“The acoustic data will require further analysis overnight but shows potential of being from a man-made source,” Houston said.
Four previous underwater signals have been detected in the area, with the sounds consistent with a plane’s flight recorders, or “black boxes.” The boxes’ locator beacons have a battery life of about a month, a period that passed two days ago.
Officials have decided to race against the life of the batteries, hoping for a few more pings to narrow the search.
If that search is narrowed, a Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle will be deployed, but the Bluefin travels very slowly, using sonar to map the ocean floor.
The underwater search zone for Flight 370 -- which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board -- covers about 500 square miles, an ocean surface that features ridges and valleys.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.