Have Time? You Can Help Search For Missing Airplane Online

Mar 13, 2014

The Tomnod interface is very easy to use
Credit Tomnod

"To map the world live is to change it live, before it's too late."

Patrick Meier is an expert in "Crisis Mapping." He's been blogging about a unique opportunity - a place where regular people can help with the search for the downed Malaysian airliner:

My colleagues at Tomnod have just deployed their satellite imagery crowdsourcing platform to support the ongoing Search & Rescue efforts. Using high-resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe, Tomnod is inviting digital volunteers from around the world to search for any sign of debris from missing Boeing 777.

Here's how it works:

  • Organizers have gained satellite imagery of the locations where officials think the plane might be. (Images are  from the day that the plane disappeared.)
  • Each satellite image is chunked into smaller pieces.
  • People around the globe sit at computers and analyze slivers of a satellite image, trying to see anything out of the ordinary.

Patrick Meier says: "This process is known as microtasking (or crowd computing). For quality control purposes, each image is shown to more than one volunteer. This consensus-based approach allows Tomnod to triangulate the tagging."

After Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters, the same crowdsourcing technology was used to help search for people who needed aid. It's interesting because the search is happening in real time.

Here's an example of how the technology was used to find hikers lost on a mountain peak in Peru. 

Participate in the search for the airliner here.

Watch a Wall Street Journal online interview about the project: