Satellite Crowdsourcing Adds 2 Million Searchers for Missing JetRobert Fenner
Tomnod.com, a crowdsourcing website run by DigitalGlobe Inc., has tapped more than 2 million people to scan through satellite images searching for clues about missing Malaysian Airline Systems Bhd. Flight 370.
About 645,000 features have been flagged in pictures in Tomnod’s largest-ever campaign, DigitalGlobe said in a blog posting. The Longmont, Colorado-based company now has images covering 24,000 square kilometers (9,300 square miles) for searching, with surges in Web traffic sometimes knocking the site offline.
Flight 370, with 239 people on board, hasn’t been heard from since the morning of March 8 after the Boeing Co. 777-200 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. There have been no confirmed findings of the plane or wreckage as teams from at least 10 nations search the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam and an area stretching west to Indonesia and east to the South China Sea.
“We have millions of people on our website, looking pixel by pixel, for anything out of place,” Shay Har-Noy, director of product development at DigitalGlobe, told Bloomberg Television. “One hundred and 30 million times, people have applied their brains and their eyes to try and solve this problem.”
DigitalGlobe operates five high-resolution satellites orbiting the Earth taking pictures that can define images to the size of a briefcase, Har-Noy said.
A Chinese satellite hunting for the missing wide-body jetliner found three floating objects at sea along the plane’s intended route, the government said. Search-and-rescue teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and the U.S. are assisting in the effort.
DigitalGlobe is collecting more imagery to make available.
“Having that many people involved looking at the imagery, with all the imagery available, is a force multiplier,” John McGraw, founder of John McGraw Aerospace Consulting, told Bloomberg Television. “None of the government agencies would be able to bring that many people to bear.”
A distress signal wasn’t received and the pilots didn’t indicate any trauma or danger before losing radio contact, according to Malaysian authorities.
With current technology, it’s unusual for an aircraft to vanish without a distress call. When they do disappear suddenly, it’s typically because of an explosion, which would scatter debris over a wide area.