The signals were emitted by the plane’s emergency locator transmitter, a device that can manually or automatically activate at impact and will usually send a distress signal, CNN reported on Thursday.
The signals from the emergency locator transmitter are different from the pings emitted by the “black boxes”.
Having these signals narrows down the area that the multinational search team has been focusing on — which a few days ago was described as “about the size of Connecticut”.
It dramatically decreases the search area to a 5-km radius, giving investigators a more specific location to detect pings from the black boxes.
The plane left Paris at on the night of May 18 and was scheduled to arrive in the Egyptian capital soon at 3.15 a.m on May 19. It disappeared from the radar screens at 2.30 a.m.
On board the plane were 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel.
A French vessel, equipped with special detection equipment to locate the pings, will begin an underwater search for the wreckage “in the coming days”, according to the BEA, France’s accident investigation agency.
So far, some debris from the plane — including life vests, personal belongings and parts of wreckage — has been recovered.
Small fragments of human remains have also been found, and Egyptian officials are trying to identify and match them to passengers or crew members.
The search is ongoing for the critical parts of the plane, including the fuselage, flight data and cockpit voice recorders.