Authorities in Australia searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have hired a private Dutch company to start mapping the ocean floor at depths of up to 6000m but continued to insist the aircraft "will be found along the seventh arc" in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia.
Fugro Survey, a deep-water survey company, is the first private contractor to be hired as the search enters its next phase and begins hunting underwater across an expanded zone covering 62,160sq km.
"The bathymetric survey will provide a map of the underwater search zone, charting the contours, depths and composition of the sea floor in water depths up to 6000m," the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said.
The survey will provide crucial information to help plan the deep-water search for MH370, scheduled to commence in August.
A vessel equipped with a deep-water, multi-beam echo sounder system, MV Fugro Equator, will join the Chinese navy vessel Zhu Kezhen on a mapping operation that's expected to take three months.
Authorities remain confident they'll find the Boeing 777 even though it went missing more than three months ago on March 8 and no wreckage has been found.
Asked about his comments two months ago that authorities were on the verge of finding the plane, the head of the JACC, Angus Houston, said he had "tried to be realistic".
"Certainly when we picked up those four acoustic transmissions I guess our hope went up and again, I was very guarded about that ... I said we can't confirm there's anything down there until such time as we find something on the bottom."
Houston said he remained confident the jet would be found.