Australia on Wednesday awarded a contract to Dutch engineering firm Fugro to search the sea floor where missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is believed to have crashed, hoping to unlock modern aviation's greatest mystery.
Months of searches have failed to turn up any trace of the missing Boeing 777, which disappeared on March 8, carrying 239 passengers and crew shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
The next phase of the search is expected to start within a month and take up to a year, focusing on a 60,000 sq kilometer (23,000 square miles) patch of ocean some 1,600 kilometer (1,000 miles) west of Perth.
Australian Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Wednesday that Fugro was selected after "offering the best value-for-money technical solution" for the search.
"I remain cautiously optimistic that we will locate the missing aircraft within the priority search area," Truss told reporters in Canberra.