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Helping Search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Peg Shippert

Have you helped search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which disappeared while en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, using Digital Globe's Tomnod crowdsourcing platform? I have, and it feels good. We are all so used to thinking of foreign disasters as outside our sphere of influence. Having a concrete way to help this time is a game changer. I keep imagining how empowering it must feel for the relatives of the missing passengers to have something tangible to do that might help find their loved one(s).


Tomnod's simple interface makes it easy to search and mark possible features of interest.

 Crowdsourcing, a.k.a.  outsourcing tasks to the general population (i.e., crowd) that have traditionally been performed by employees, has actually been around for quite a while. And yet the term crowdsourcing was not coined until 2006, in response to the increase in "open calls" to assist with tasks via the internet. Using crowdsourcing to sort through remotely sensed imagery isn't brand new either. It was used in 2008 by ImageCat Inc. and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute to assess damage from the Wenchuan, China, earthquake. DigitalGlobe itself used Tomnod all the way back in 2013, to help map damage from a devastating tornado that hit Moore, OK on May 20 that year.

No doubt, though, the use of Tomnod to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has brought DigitalGlobe's crowdsourcing tool to the attention of countless new users. As of March 12, over 2 million people had helped search imagery for signs of the aircraft via Tomnod. As of this writing (March 19), the plane is still missing, and you can still help search for it. Perhaps your experience interpreting remotely sensed imagery will allow you spot something that others might miss.


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