March 12th, 2014
07:44 AM ET

Crowdsourcing Volunteers Comb Satellite Photos For Malaysia Airlines Jet

You - the person now reading this story - can help experts solve the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the open sea.

In fact, thousands of aspiring good Samaritans are volunteering their time to scour part of the plane's search zone using detailed satellite images posted online by DigitalGlobe, a Colorado firm that owns one of the world's most advanced commercial satellite networks.

So many volunteers have joined the effort that the firm's website - with its pinpoint pictures of everything floating in the ocean - has crashed.

It is a busy week for "crowdsourcing," the Internet phenomenon where information is gathered from John and Jane Q. Public - people like you - and from your social media postings.

"This is a real needle-in-the-haystack problem, except the haystack is in the middle of the ocean," Luke Barrington of DigitalGlobe told CNN affiliate KMGH. "I will ask you to mark anything that looks interesting, any signs of wreckage or life rafts."

DigitalGlobe's satellite photos taken 400 miles above the Gulf of Thailand can capture a detail as small as a home plate. The challenge is finding the manpower to scour 1,235 square miles of such images on one of DigitalGlobe's websites, Tomnod.com - with more pictures to be posted this week from satellites above the Strait of Malacca, said Abby Van Uum, an Edelman publicist retained by DigitalGlobe.

That's where crowdsourcing comes in.

"In many cases, the areas covered are so large, or the things we're looking for are so hard to find, that without the help of hundreds of thousands of people online, we'd never be able to find them," Barrington said.

One volunteer, Mike Seberger, 43, found a fascinating image in a matter of minutes: the silhouette in the ocean has the scale of a Boeing 777-200, the same model of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

For more, visit CNN.com.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. chris

    I believe it was heading toward kazakhstan. You have got to think of a motive. At present moment, it is reasonable to think about the connection with the Xinjiang issue and Muslim involvement. Therefore, heading toward Kazakhstan is very reasonable. A crash in the high mountains like the Himalaya is plausible. One can use the digitalglobe to search this route!!

    March 15, 2014 at 6:42 am | Reply

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