Australia spots possible debris from MH370

The Australian Prime Minister says debris has been spotted in the southern Indian Ocean.

FILE: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement personnel using radar to scan for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Boeing 777-200 as they fly over the waters off the northeastern coast of peninsula Malaysia. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have been spotted on satellite imagery.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said potential debris that could be from the Boeing 777 had been spotted in the southern Indian Ocean.

"New and credible information has come to light in relation to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean," Abbott told the Australian parliament.

"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has received information based on satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search."

"Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified," he said.

Abbott said he had already spoken with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak and cautioned that the objects had yet to be identified.

"The task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out they are not related to the search for MH370," Abbott said.

He said a Royal Australian Air Force jet and three other aircrafts had been tasked with a more intensive follow-up search.

Flight MH370 vanished shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing 12 days ago.

There were 239 people on board.

Meanwhile, the unexplained fate of MH370 has thrown the spotlight on some satellite technologies that will make it easier in future for authorities to track and communicate with aircraft over water and uninhabited areas.

Investigators believe it most likely flew into the southern Indian Ocean.

Already, new systems are being developed by European and North American teams to allow more accurate plotting of location and flight paths.

These would use satellite-based sensors rather than radars to pick up signals containing automated location and velocity data sent every second from aircraft.

Currently, information on a plane's location can be picked up by ground-based radar, which loses coverage over oceans or remote areas, or it can be combined with optional on-board satellite communications tools that require pilot actions and that airlines, many under budget constraints, must pay for.

An unprecedented multinational search for the plane has focused on two vast search corridors: one arcing north overland from Laos towards the Caspian Sea, the other curving south across the Indian Ocean from west of Indonesia's Sumatra island to west of Australia.

Australia is leading the search in the southern part of the southern corridor, with assistance from the US Navy.

Additional reporting by Reuters