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Join the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight

Join the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight


Satellite operator hopes crowdsourcing will help locate missing aircraft

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Authorities have yet to locate Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which mysteriously lost contact with air traffic control on over the weekend, but a satellite operator in the US hopes that crowdsourcing could help find it. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Colorado-based DigitalGlobe has sent two of its satellites to survey the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, targeting areas that haven't been covered by other satellites or where inclement weather could have hindered previous attempts. The company is also looking at the Strait of Malacca, after (disputed) reports yesterday suggested that the aircraft could have traveled far off course. The company's images should be available online by early Wednesday, where volunteers will be able to help scan them.

The images will be published on Tomnod, a crowdsourcing site where users help identify debris from natural disasters or other incidents. After DigitalGlobe published its first satellite images on Monday, the site saw an unprecedented influx of traffic — more than 500,000 unique visitors within 24 hours — forcing it to reboot its servers. According to DigitalGlobe senior manager Luke Barrington, 100,000 users scanned the first images, collectively examining each pixel 100 times over.

The search continues

DigitalGlobe relies on government contracts and private sector clients for the majority of its revenue, but its crowdsourced crisis response efforts are free services. In the past, the company has used its technology to search for the Nina ship, which went missing off of the coast of Australia last year, and to track the Lord's Resistance Army across the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"DigitalGlobe is doing all of this work for free, just like the Tomnod users are doing it for free," Barrington told the Denver Post. "That's all part of our vision of seeing a better world and is a large reason I work here."