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French Clarify New Satellite Data Not Images But 'Echoes'

The French are honing in on a spot in the Indian Ocean about 1,400 miles from Perth, Australia.

Satellite data that France provided to Malaysian authorities showing possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet have been characterized as "images" but they are simply “radio echoes” and do not have the quality of a photograph, French authorities said Sunday evening.

Information sent to Malaysian authorities “are not images with such a definition as a photograph, but they do allow (us) to identify the nature of an object, and to localize it," said French Foreign Ministry Spokesman Romain Nadal.

The possible debris the French may have discovered is in the Indian Ocean, about 1,430 miles from Perth, Australia, Nadal said.

The French government will “increase its satellite monitoring of this zone and to try to obtain more precise images,” Nadal said.

Satellite echo data is obtained by sending a beam of energy to the earth and then analyzing it when it bounces back, Joseph Bermudez Jr., chief analytics officer at AllSource Analysis, a commercial satellite intelligence firm, told The Associated Press.

The echoes can be converted to something that would look like an unclear black-and-white photo, but “you'd have to know what you're looking at," Bermudez said.

A Malaysian official involved in the search told The Associated Press that the French data located the objects about 575 miles north of the spots where objects in satellite images previously released by Australia and China were located.

On Sunday, the search continued for the debris flagged by China and Australia — as well as a wooden pallet spotted by a plane on Saturday — in hopes that they would lead to the jetliner that went missing with 239 people on board.

— Tom Costello and Elisha Fieldstadt
This photo taken on March 19, 2014 and received on March 23 shows Petty Officer Combat Systems Supervisor Heath Davis on the bridge of HMAS Success keeping a lookout as the ship leaves the port of Fremantle in Western Australia to join the search for missing Malaysia Airlines fight MH370.ABIS JULIANNE CROPLEY / AFP - Getty Images