MH370: Could the missing Malaysian Airlines plane finally be found with new technology?

It has been over 7 years since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 crashed and disappeared into the Southern Indian Ocean, but the search for it has been futile.

However, British aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey has recently made the headlines, claiming to have pinpointed the precise coordinates where the plane could have possibly crashed into.

According to Godfrey, MH370 “hit the ocean 1933km west of Perth, at 33.177°S 95.300°E, with the plane falling a depth of 4000 metres to the floor below”. He added that the “prime crash location is at the foot of the Broken Ridge in an area with difficult underwater terrain”. The long-missing aircraft was claimed to be found through the use of Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) data, allowing Godfrey to pinpoint the location of the missing aircraft with remarkable accuracy.

What is WSPR data?

In simple terms, the WSPR network can be visualised as trip wires across a prairie according to The Guardian. Godfrey posits that each step made disturbs particular trip wires, allowing one to be located and tracked as something moves through the prairie.
Those disturbances, mapped together with satellites pinging the plane, can help “fill in some of the gaps and help us to know more precisely where MH370 crashed”.

When we conducted a search on WSPR however, we could not find much reliable information about it, apart from the aforementioned report that alludes to its usefulness in finding missing aircraft and a page from Princeton University describing the technical details of the software, which calls into question the legitimacy of the claim. A Wikipedia post on WSPR has questioned this approach, pointing out that the signal energy from aircrafts in such distances, especially for MH 370, is too low to provide any reliable data. However the Wikipedia article does not provide any citations to back up these claims and there is a lack of experts who have discussed this approach of using WSPR as a tool for tracking airplanes.

Can WSPR be used to reliably track aircraft?

With the lack of data available on WSPR and its uses, it is important to note that WSPR is at its heart, an amateur radio software and has not been reported to be used for tracking aircraft before. Apart from the report from Godfrey, the New York Post reports that the Ocean Infinity team, which conducted a large scale search for MH370 back in 2018 over 50,000 square miles with unmanned underwater vehicles, were open to conducting another search based on the data found.

Based on the lack of data besides the report and the news that the Ocean Infinity team are keen to conduct another search based on the report from Richard Godfrey, it is currently unproven that WSPR data can be used to reliably track aircraft.

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