The Malaysian Star (via the Huffington Post) reports that it has had calls from readers who have been looking for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 … on Google Maps. Spotting static images of aircraft in flight, they have been reporting them as downed aircraft.
With the search entering its fourth day on Tuesday, several concerned citizens called The Star, believing that they have discovered the missing airplane after scrolling through the Google Maps satellite images.
While Google Maps images are of course typically months to years old, surprisingly it is possible for Internet users to help search for the plane in contemporary satellite images …
A Colorado satellite imaging company is uploading high-resolution images taken since the plane went missing, and is seeking help from the public in identifying potential sightings of the aircraft or debris from it.
Anyone can click on the link and begin searching the images, tagging anything that looks suspicious. Each pixel on a computer screen represents half a meter on the ocean’s surface, said Luke Barrington, senior manager of Geospatial Big Data for DigitalGlobe.
“For people who aren’t able to drive a boat through the Pacific Ocean to get to the Malaysian peninsula, or who can’t fly airplanes to look there, this is a way that they can contribute and try to help out,” Barrington said.
The system logs areas tagged by the public, and identifies the most-tagged sites to pass on to rescue services for a closer look. The company used the same approach after Typhoon Haiyan, with almost 140,000 damaged buildings tagged by the public.