Missing Malaysian jet: Satellite imagery provider invites public’s help

An “amazing” number of people have been scouring through satellite images to spot possible leads in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe said Tuesday that it was uploading more shots of the Gulf of Thailand to its Tomnod website, where anyone can scroll through images and tag what might be rafts, wreckage, oil slicks or other markers. Many people noticing the same thing in the same spot would trigger an alert on the company’s end.

The website was inaccessible to many visitors on Tuesday because of the “amazing” and “unprecedented” response from the Internet community.

“We are working to best handle an unprecedented level of Web traffic and interest in supporting the Malaysia Airlines jetliner search,” the Colorado company said Tuesday morning. “Please check back soon. We have new imagery collections planned for today and hope to make those images available online for the crowd as soon as possible.”


DigitalGlobe bought Tomnod about a year ago, and the project’s former chief executive, Shay Har-Noy, said at the time that the goal of Tomnod is to make satellite imagery accessible.

“We want eyeballs on every pixel that’s collected from space,” he said in an online video. "... That requires two things. That requires distribution and scalable analysis. We want to power the end-user.”

DigitalGlobe has deployed the Tomnod before, including after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines last November. But the ongoing search for Flight 370 might be the highest profile test of the crowdsourcing project.

Despite an expanded search by authorities from the South China Sea to the Andaman Sea, after four days, no trace has yet been found of the Boeing 777 airliner, which carried 239 people.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement Tuesday that nine aircraft and 24 ships have been deployed to search for the missing plane with assistance coming from the United States, Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.


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