MH370 update: 'Highly likely' plane was on autopilot when it flew into ocean, officials said

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MH370 update: 'Highly likely' plane was on autopilot when it flew into ocean, officials said
In this map provided on Thursday, June 26, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Australian officials say the hunt for the missing plane that vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard will shift farther south of the most recent suspected crash site in a remote stretch of Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
This photo illustration shows a journalist looking on the data communication logs from British satellite operator Inmarsat and released by Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in Kuala Lumpur on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on May 27, 2014. Malaysia's aviation authority released on May 27 the satellite data used to determine that flight MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean following demands from sceptical relatives of those on board. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man stands in front of a billboard in support of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have a meeting at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on April 23, 2014. The hunt for physical evidence that the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in the Indian Ocean more than three weeks ago has turned up nothing, despite a massive operation involving seven countries and repeated sightings of suspected debris.. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken May 14, 2014 a Malaysia Airlines staff walks up to a flight prior to departure at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. Malaysia Airlines is expected to announce its first quarter earnings after a bruising period since Flight 370 vanished. AFP PHOTO/ Manan VATSYAYANA. (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on May 5, 2014 the Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Artemis Bluefin-21, is shown on the deck of the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield berthed at Fleet Base West near Perth as it prepared to resupply and undertake routine maintenance. Ocean Shield, with the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle on board, was due to head back on May 10 to the remote area of ocean off Western Australia to continue searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
The attached map shows MH370’s flight path, based on the best available knowledge of the investigation team. There are a number of possible flight paths to the southern Indian Ocean, and three boxes indicating where MH370 likely ended. These flight paths differ based on different projections of the aircraft’s speed, shown on the map in knots.
The attached map shows MH370’s flight path, based on the best available knowledge of the investigation team. There are a number of possible flight paths to the southern Indian Ocean, and three boxes indicating where MH370 likely ended. These flight paths differ based on different projections of the aircraft’s speed, shown on the map in knots.
The attached map shows MH370’s flight path, based on the best available knowledge of the investigation team. There are a number of possible flight paths to the southern Indian Ocean, and three boxes indicating where MH370 likely ended. These flight paths differ based on different projections of the aircraft’s speed, shown on the map in knots.

Photo of a map provided by GeoResonance, which claimed on Tuesday April 29, 2014, that it found wreckage thought to possibly be from missing Flight MH370. The photo was posted to Twitter by user Cristina Lombardi.

GeoResonance A graphic shows images depicting underwater "anomalies" suggesting deposits of various metals #MH370 http://t.co/qi2aUlzE1z

Photo of a map provided by GeoResonance, which claimed on Tuesday April 29, 2014, that it found wreckage thought to possibly be from missing Flight MH370. The photo was posted to Twitter by user Jickson Johnson.

Members of the Malaysia team involved in the search of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 brief relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the missing plane at a hotel in Beijing, China, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The search team release snippets of the audio between the pilot and the control tower and answered questions relatives has regarding the satellite data used to determine the possible location of the plane. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: A South Korean P3 Orion aircraft takes off from Pearce Airbase, in Bullsbrook, 35 kms north of Perth to help in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on April 17, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Twenty-six nations have been involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared more than a month ago. The Malaysian Airways aircraft went missing on 8th March 2014 whilst on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. (Photo by Greg Pool - Pool/Getty Images)
From left, Royal Australian Air Force Group Captain Craig Heap, Royal Australian Navy Rear Adm. Greg Sammut, Chris Birrer, Australian Defense Minister David Johnston, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Japanese Ministry of Defence Director-General Hideshi Tokuchi, Japanese Joint Staff, Vice Chief of Staff Goro Matsumura, Japanese Consul General of Perth Koichi Funayama pose for a photo on the tarmac at RAAF Base Pearce before ahead of Japan's final search flight for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, Monday, April 28. 2014. Japanese Orion aircraft have logged 46 aerial search missions totaling approximately 400 hours of flight.(AP Photo/Emily Wang)
Ground crew watch as a Japanese P-3C Orion taxis along the tarmac at RAAF Base Pearce before departing for Japan's final search flight for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Monday, April 28, 2014. Japanese Orion aircraft have logged 46 aerial search missions totaling approximately 400 hours of flight.(AP Photo/Emily Wang)
A relative of Chinese passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370 speaks to media as he and others wait for Malaysia embassy staff to meet them outside the Malaysia embassy in Beijing, China Friday, April 25, 2014. About 50 relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane continued a sit-in protest outside the Malaysian Embassy after officials failed to show up to update them on the search. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
In this map provided on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet will likely soon deploy more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper as the current search of the most likely crash site in the Indian Ocean has failed to yield any clues, Australia's defense minister said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, cry during a meeting in Beijing Monday, April 21, 2014. Relatives chanted slogans and shouted protests against the lack of meaning answers from Malaysian officials and Malaysia Airlines representatives. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Relatives of Chinese passengers on board the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 raise their hands to show their agreement to a decision made during a meeting with Malaysia Airlines staff in Beijing Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Unidentified material that has washed ashore in southwestern Australia is being examined for any link to the lost Malaysian plane, authorities in Australia said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
AT SEA - APRIL 17: In this handout image provided by Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence, Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Artemis begins its dive in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on April 17, 2014. Twenty-six nations have been involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared more than a month ago. The Malaysian Airways aircraft went missing on 8th March 2014 whilst on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. (Photo by LSIS Bradley Darvill/Australia Department of Defence via Getty Images)
In this Monday, April 14, 2014, photo provided by the Australian Defense Force an autonomous underwater vehicle is deployed from ADV Ocean Shield in the search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The search area for the missing Malaysian jet has proved too deep for the robotic submarine which was hauled back to the surface of the Indian Ocean less than half way through its first seabed hunt for wreckage and the all-important black boxes, authorities said on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, Lt. Kelli Lunt) EDITORIAL USE ONLY Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Artemis is craned over the side of Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the search for missing flight MH370.
In this Monday, April 14, 2014, photo provided by the Australian Defense Force an autonomous underwater vehicle is deployed from ADV Ocean Shield in the search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The search area for the missing Malaysian jet has proved too deep for the robotic submarine which was hauled back to the surface of the Indian Ocean less than half way through its first seabed hunt for wreckage and the all-important black boxes, authorities said on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, Lt. Kelli Lunt) EDITORIAL USE ONLY Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Artemis is craned over the side of Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the search for missing flight MH370.
In this map provided on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The search area for the missing Malaysian jet has proved too deep for a robotic submarine which was hauled back to the surface of the Indian Ocean less than half way through its first seabed hunt for wreckage and the all-important black boxes, authorities said. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this map provided on Monday, April 14, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner continued on Monday to focus on a search for weakening radio signals from deep beneath the waves despite evidence mounting that the batteries in the plane’s all-important black boxes may finally have died. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this photo taken from the Royal New Zealand air force (RNZAF) P-3K2-Orion aircraft, a RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) is deployed from the Australian ship HMAS Perth after it was guided into position by the RNZAF aircraft to recover a red object during a search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in the Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner continued to focus Monday on a search for weakening radio signals from deep beneath the waves despite mounting evidence that the batteries in the plane's all-important black boxes may finally have died.(AP Photo/Greg Wood, Pool)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 26: Malaysia's Minister of Defence and acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein (C) is viewed through a lens as he speaks during a press conference on March 26, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The search for flight MH370 resumes today after rought winds and high swells prevented crews from searching for debris yesterday. Six countries have joined the search, now considered to be a recovery effort, after authorities have announced that airliner crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean and that there are no survivors. (Photo by Rahman Roslan/Getty Images)
Malaysia's Minister of Defence and Acting Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein (L) looks at maps as Director General of Civil Aviation Department (DCA) Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R) answers questions during a press conference at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 17, 2013. An investigation into the pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 intensified on March 17 after officials confirmed that the last words spoken from the cockpit came after a key signalling system was manually disabled. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
US navy captain Mark Matthews (C) speaks with journalists following a media conference involving Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre in Perth on April 9, 2014 on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Australian ship Ocean Shield detected two more signals on April 8 to match a pair of transmissions picked up earlier in the week that have been analysed as consistent with flight data recorder emissions, Angus Houston said. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
Flight MH370's pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10 : A handout image released by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) in Canberra, Australia, 10 April 2014, shows the search area and Sonobuoy search area where 14 planes and 13 ships are scouring a 57,923 square km area of ocean for the wreckage of flight MH370 on 10 April 2014.Flight MH370 went missing after losing radio contact with Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8. The Beijing-bound flight carried 239 passengers including 12 flight crew from 14 different countries. (Photo by AMSA/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Ben Pelletier, marine operations engineer for Bluefin Robotics, attempts to retrieve a submarine in Quincy, Mass., Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Bluefin Robotics shipped a version of their submarine to help locate the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, by using its side-scan sonar. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
A submarine built by Bluefin Robotics is lowered into the water by systems engineer Cheryl Mierzwa in Quincy, Mass., Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Bluefin Robotics shipped a version of their submarine to help locate the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, by using its side-scan sonar. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
Ben Pelletier, marine operations engineer for Bluefin Robotics, attempts to retrieve a submarine in Quincy, Mass., Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Bluefin Robotics shipped a version of their submarine to help locate the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, by using its side-scan sonar. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
In this April 9, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force, a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion flies past Australian Defense vessel Ocean Shield on a mission to drop sonar buoys to assist in the acoustic search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The ship searching for the missing Malaysian jet has detected two more underwater signals that may be emanating from the aircraft's black boxes, and the Australian official in charge of the search expressed hope Wednesday that the plane's wreckage will soon be found. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, LSIS Bradley Darvill) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
This image provided by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, shows a map indicating the locations of signals detected by vessels looking for signs of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. An Australian official overseeing the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane said underwater sounds picked up by equipment on an Australian navy ship are consistent with transmissions from black box recorders on a plane. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Angus Houston (2nd-L), head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaks at a media conference in Perth on April 9, 2014. Australian ship Ocean Shield detected two more signals on April 8 to match a pair of transmissions picked up earlier in the week that have been analysed as consistent with flight data recorder emissions, Houston said. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
A graphic of the area being searched for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, is displayed during a media conference involving Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre in Perth on April 9, 2014. Australian ship Ocean Shield detected two more signals on April 8 to match a pair of transmissions picked up earlier in the week that have been analysed as consistent with flight data recorder emissions, Houston said. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
In this April 7, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force Able Seaman Clearance Diver Michael Arnold is towed by a fast response craft from the Australian Defense's ship Ocean Shield as he scans the water for debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, Australia. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, Lt. Ryan Davis) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this April 7, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force Able Seaman Clearance Divers Matthew Johnston, right, and Michael Arnold, from the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield, scan the water for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, Australia. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, Lt. Ryan Davis) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this April 7, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force Able Seaman Clearance Diver Matthew Johnston is towed by a fast response craft from Australian Defense's ship Ocean Shield as he scans the water for debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, Australia. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, Lt. Ryan Davis) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this April 7, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force Able Seaman Clearance Divers Matthew Johnston, right, and Michael Arnold, from the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield, scan the water for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, Australia. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, Lt. Ryan Davis) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this April 7, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force a fast response craft manned by members from the Australian Defense's ship Ocean Shield is deployed to scan the water for debris of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, Australia. (AP Photo/Australia Defense Force, LSIS Bradley Darvill) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
In this April 7, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force, a fast response craft manned by members from the Australian Defense's ship Ocean Shield tows Able Seaman Clearance Diver Michael Arnold as they scan the water for debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, 2,270 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, Australia. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, LSIS Bradley Darvill) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Diagram shows three types of technology used in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
This image provided by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre on Monday, April 7, 2014, shows a map indicating the locations of search vessels looking for signs of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. An Australian official overseeing the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane said underwater sounds picked up by equipment on an Australian navy ship are consistent with transmissions from black box recorders on a plane. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, points to a graphic of the search area during a media conference in Perth on April 7, 2014. An Australian navy ship has detected new underwater signals consistent with aircraft black boxes, Houston said on April 7, describing it as the 'most promising lead' so far in the month-old hunt for missing Flight MH370. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sunday, March 30, 2014 file photo, the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield lies docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with a towed pinger locator to aid in her roll in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia. Crews searching for the jet launched a targeted underwater hunt on Friday, April 4 for the plane's black boxes along a stretch of remote ocean, with just days left before the devices' batteries are expected to run out. The Ocean Shield, which is dragging a towed pinger locator from the U.S. Navy, and the British navy's HMS Echo, which has underwater search gear on board, will converge along a 240-kilometer (150-mile) track in a desolate patch of the southern Indian Ocean, said Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the search. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)
Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, displays a graphic of the search area during a media conference in Perth on April 7, 2014. An Australian navy ship has detected new underwater signals consistent with aircraft black boxes, Houston said on April 7, describing it as the 'most promising lead' so far in the month-old hunt for missing Flight MH370. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
Map shows search areas for missing Malaysia Airlines missing jet.; 3c x 5 inches; 146 mm x 127 mm;
A Chinese relative of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cries during a mass prayer for the missing plane, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, April 6, 2014. The head of the multinational search for the missing Malaysia airlines jet said that electronic pulses reportedly picked up by a Chinese ship are an encouraging sign but stresses they are not yet verified. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft flies over Perth towards the international airport returning from search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia, Sunday, April 6, 2014. Retired Australian Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, the head of the multinational search, confirmed that a Chinese ship had picked up electronic pulsing signals twice in a small patch of the search zone, once on Friday and again on Saturday, but he stressed the signals had not been verified as linked to the missing plane. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s aircraft taxies past another parked on the tarmac at Perth International Airport after returning from search operations for wreckage and debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, in Perth, Australia, Monday, April 7, 2014. It’s not a question most governments involved in the hunt for Flight 370 care to answer: How much has the far-flung, month-long search cost? Several Chinese ships and planes have been involved in the search, but China’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions about the expense of the effort. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A man places a LED candle after a mass prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, April 6, 2014. The head of the multinational search for the missing Malaysia airlines jet said that electronic pulses reportedly picked up by a Chinese ship are an encouraging sign but stresses they are not yet verified. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
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BY LINCOLN FEAST

(Reuters) - Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was most likely on autopilot when it crashed into the Indian Ocean further south than previously thought, Australian officials said on Thursday, as they charted the next phase of a so far fruitless search.

The new analysis comes more than 100 days after the Boeing 777, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared on March 8 shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.

Related: Malaysia releases satellite data on missing MH370 jet
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Investigators say what little evidence they have to work with suggests the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.

MH370 Likely On Autopilot Before Crash

The search was narrowed in April after a series of acoustic pings thought to be from the plane's black box recorders were heard along a final arc where analysis of satellite data put its last location.

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Related: MH370 jetliner's likely flight path gets ...

But a month later, officials conceded the wreckage was not in that concentrated area, some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) off the northwest coast of Australia, and the search area would have to be expanded.

"The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with satellite. We are now shifting our attention to an area further south along the arc," Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Canberra.

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Truss said the area was determined after a review of satellite data, early radar information and aircraft performance limits after the plane diverted across the Malaysian peninsula and headed south into one of the remotest areas of the planet.

"It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings," Truss said.

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Related: Satellite clue crushes wild theories, hope for Flight MH370 ...

The next phase of the search is expected to start in August and take a year, covering some 60,000 sq km at a cost of A$60 million ($56 million) or more. The search is already the most expensive in aviation history.

The new priority search area is around 2,000 km west of Perth, a stretch of isolated ocean frequently lashed by storm force winds and massive swells.

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In a 55-page report, the Australian Transport Safety Board outlined a how investigators had narrowed down the possible final resting place from thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of communications and the steady flight path.

"Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370's flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction," the ATSB report said.

Two vessels, one Chinese and one from Dutch engineering company Fugro (FUGRc.AS), are currently mapping the sea floor along the arc, where depths exceed 5,000 metres in parts.

A tender to find a commercial operator to conduct the sea floor search closes on Monday.

MH370 update: 'Highly likely' plane was on autopilot when it flew into ocean, officials said
A relative of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 yells at a security personnel while she attends a protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative (C) of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 yells at a security personnel (R) while she attends a protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical personnel assist a person while relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative (C) of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she participates in a protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical personnel assist a person while relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Grieving relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest with plarcards outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
A grieving relative (C) of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is comforted by others as they protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Grieving relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest with a plarcard (C) reading 'we want the truth' outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
People assist a relative (C) who fainted during a protest, held by the relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
A grieving Chinese relative of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 yells to journalists as they gather to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 march to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 march to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 march to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are removed by bus after their protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are removed by bus after their protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Riot police block grieving Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as they protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 25: Chinese relatives of the passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 clash with Chinese police outside the Malaysian Embassy on March 25, 2014 in Beijing, China. Hundreds of protesters, including many relatives of missing flight MH370 passengers, marched on the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing demanding answers from Malaysian authorities about the fate of the flight. The Prime Minister of Malaysia announced yesterday that new data showed the flight had crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are removed by bus after their protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Grieving Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 walk past a paramilitary police barricade as they gather to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Grieving Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 try to remove a police barricade blocking journalists as they gather to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. Scores of angry relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 set out on a protest march to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25 to demand more answers about the crashed plane's fate. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative (L) of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries after hearing the news that the plane plunged into Indian Ocean at a hotel in Beijing on March 24, 2014. The missing Malaysia Airlines jet came down in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Najib Razak said March 24, as the airline reportedly told relatives it had been lost and that none on board survived. AFP PHOTO / GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 waves her fist as she cries after hearing the news that the plane plunged into the Indian Ocean at a hotel in Beijing on March 24, 2014. The missing Malaysia Airlines jet came down in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Najib Razak said March 24, as the airline reportedly told relatives it had been lost and that none on board survived. AFP PHOTO / GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is taken away by medical personnel after being told the news that the plane plunged into Indian Ocean in Beijing on March 24, 2014. The missing Malaysia Airlines jet came down in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Najib Razak said March 24, as the airline reportedly told relatives it had been lost and that none on board survived. AFP PHOTO / GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative (C) of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is taken away by medical personnel after being told the news that the plane plunged into Indian Ocean in Beijing on March 24, 2014. The missing Malaysia Airlines jet came down in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Najib Razak said March 24, as the airline reportedly told relatives it had been lost and that none on board survived. AFP PHOTO / GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he walks out of a hotel hall at after hearing the news that the plane plunged into Indian Ocean in Beijing on March 24, 2014. The missing Malaysia Airlines jet came down in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Najib Razak said March 24, as the airline reportedly told relatives it had been lost and that none on board survived. AFP PHOTO / GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leave after being told that the missing airliner had crashed in the Indian Ocean at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 24, 2014. Tears and cries of inconsolable pain and loss echoed from a Beijing hotel ballroom as the relatives of MH370 passengers learned the news: their loved ones were dead. Some clung on to other family members for crumbs of comfort as they left the room where they were told the Malaysia Airlines flight had ended, incontestably, in the remote southern Indian Ocean. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of victims from the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane cries while awaiting updates at a hotel in Putrajaya on March 11, 2014. Malaysia has expanded its search area for a missing jet after three days of scouring the sea failed to bring forth any confirmed sightings of wreckage, an official said. He added that besides searching in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, authorities were also searching on land in Malaysia and off western Malaysia. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman (R) breaks down while leaving the reception centre for families and friends after an airliner went missing at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8, 2014. Malaysia and Vietnam on March 8 led a search for a Malaysia Airlines jet that has gone missing over Southeast Asia, as fears mounted over the fate of the 239 people aboard. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A crying woman is escorted to a bus for relatives at the Beijing Airport after news of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane on March 8, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said a flight carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing early on March 8, and the airline was notifying next of kin in a sign it expected the worst. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A possible relative cries at the Beijing Airport after news of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane in Beijing on March 8, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said a flight carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing early on March 8, and the airline was notifying next of kin in a sign it expected the worst. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A crying woman, one of the relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, is assisted by volunteers as she leaves a hotel ballroom where families were briefed on rescue and searching efforts in Beijing, China, Friday, March 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
A woman cries as she walks out of the reception center and holding area for family and friend of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 8, 2014. Search teams across Southeast Asia scrambled on Saturday to find a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people on board that disappeared from air traffic control screens over waters between Malaysia and Vietnam early that morning. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries as she holds a banner in front of journalists reading 'We are against the Malaysian government for hiding the truth and delaying the rescue. Release our families unconditionally!" at a hotel in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Malaysian authorities examined new radar data from Thailand that could potentially give clues on how to retrace the course of the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished early March 8 with 239 people aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Twenty-six countries are looking for the aircraft as relatives anxiously await news. (AP Photo) MALAYSIA OUT
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(Additional reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Nick Macfie and Nick Macfie)

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