Colorado company uses crowdsourcing to search for Flight MH370

U.S. satellite company DigitalGlobe has released about 1,235.5 square miles of satellite imagery for a crowdsourcing campaign. (Sources: DigitalGlobe, staff reports. Map: The Washington Post.)
U.S. satellite company DigitalGlobe has released about 1,235.5 square miles of satellite imagery for a crowdsourcing campaign. (Sources: DigitalGlobe, staff reports. Map: The Washington Post.)

Amid the mystery of missing Malaysia Flight MH370, a Colorado-based satellite imaging company is enlisting the public’s help through a crowdsourcing campaign to scour images of more than 1,200 miles of ocean.

DigitalGlobe first launched its FirstLook service in which its satellites snapped high-resolution imagery of the Gulf of Thailand, were the plane is suspected to have crashed. It then activated its crowdsourcing platform, called Tomnod, on Monday afternoon, and asked the public to begin searching and tagging any image online that could be telling of the aircraft’s disappearance.

The Denver Post’s interview with DigitalGlobe’s Luke Barrington, senior manager of geospatial big data, sums it up:

“If there is something to see on the surface [of the water] we will see it. But the question is if we are looking in the right area.”

The company’s FirstLook online subscription service is used by emergency response in times of natural disasters for planning, damage assessment and recovery planning, according to its website.

Last year, it was used by thousands of volunteers who tagged more than 60,000 objects of interest. The result showed a telling before and after tale of Super Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippians.

And in the past month,  ABC News reported, DigitalGlobe has used the service to identify wildfires in Australia, mayhem in Ukraine and damage that resulted from the ice storms in Atlanta, Ga. But the Tomnod technology is used more selectively, about twice a week, according to the Denver Post.

As Barrington told the Denver Post:

“This whole feeling of not knowing, the lack of information or ability to do  anything, we have seen time and again, is why people want to get involved.”

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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