An Australian oceanographer at the CSIRO has suggested a new search area for MH370, where the Ocean Infinity vessel will focus its efforts.
Dr David Griffin, an Australian oceanographer at the CSIRO, has told the ABC that the missing plane could only be 35 degrees south in the southern Indian Ocean.
"The oceanographic reason for why 35 [degrees south] is more likely than say 34, or 33, or 32, is that at all those latitudes the current is going to the east," he said.
"So if the crash had been in any of those latitudes then there'd be a high chance of at least one or two things turning up in Australia. Whereas there've been 20 or 30 or so items turned up in Africa, and not a single one come to Australia.
"Once you start looking in the vicinity of 36 to 32, then 35 is the only option."
His claim that the plane could be at this location comes as Australian investigators believe there were five different autopilot control modes MH370 could have been on when it plunged into the ocean, reports News.com.au.
Calculations from four of those settings lead to a location 36-39 degrees south or further north at 33-34 degrees south.
But according to the ABC, a source close to the investigation said only one of the five autopilot settings — constant magnetic heading (CMH) — would lead to a crash site at 35 degrees south, where the ocean current was moving towards Africa.
This would explain why most of the debris believed to be from the MH370 flight has been recovered off the African coast in places like Mauritius, Reunion Island, Tanzania and Mozambique.
None of the debris has been found washed up near or on Australian shores.
The claim comes after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report that narrowed the search zone for the missing plane down to an area half the size of Melbourne in August last year.
The report placed the most likely location of the aircraft "with unprecedented precision and certainty" at 35.6°S, 92.8°E — in between Western Australia and Madagascar.
Malaysia's government has vowed to pay US company Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it can find the wreckage or black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 within three months, in a renewed bid to solve the plane's disappearance nearly four years ago.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said there was an 85 per cent chance of finding the debris in a new 25,000 square kilometre area — roughly the size of Vermont — identified by experts.
The government signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with the Houston, Texas-based company to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search by Malaysia, Australia and China in the southern Indian Ocean was called off.
The plane vanished on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
"The primary mission by Ocean Infinity is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders ... and present a considerable and credible evidence to confirm the exact location of the two main items," he told a news conference.
If the mission is successful within three months, payment will be made based on the size of the area searched.
Liow said the government will pay Ocean Infinity $20 million for 5,000 square kilometres of a successful search, $30 million for 15,000 square kilometres, $50 million for 25,000 square kilometres and $70 million if the plane or recorders are found beyond the identified area.
Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett said the search vessel Seabed Constuctor, which left the South African port of Durban last week, is expected to reach the southern Indian Ocean by Jan. 17 to begin the hunt.
He said eight autonomous underwater vehicles, which are drones fitted with hi-tech cameras, sonars and sensors, will be dispatched to map the seabed at a faster pace. Plunkett said the underwater drones can cover 1,200 square kilometres a day and complete the 25,000 square kilometres within a month.
"We have a realistic prospect of finding it," he said.
"While there can be no guarantees of locating the aircraft, we believe our system of multiple autonomous vehicles working simultaneously is well suited to the task at hand."
The official search was extremely difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its first 38 minutes of flight. Systems designed to automatically transmit the flight's position failed to work after this point, said a final report from Australian Transport Safety Board last January.
"I feel very happy but at the same time very panicky whether it can be found or not. Now it's back to four years ago where we have to wait everyday (to find out) whether debris can be found," said Shin Kok Chau, whose wife Tan Ser Kuin was a flight attendant on MH370.
Underwater wreck hunter David Mearns said the new search takes into account oceanographic models used to drastically narrow the possible locations of the crash and deploys state-of-the art underwater vehicles that will allow the company to cover far more seabed at a faster pace.
"There are no guarantees in a search of this type. However, notwithstanding that uncertainty, this upcoming search is the best chance yet that the aircraft wreckage will be found," he said.