How I joined the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370... on my computer


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The Independent Online

It’s only once you’ve spent an hour staring at seemingly identical squares of blue that you realise just how big the world’s oceans are. It also helps you to sympathise with the search-and-rescue teams currently looking for the mysteriously absent Boeing 777 jetliner and its 239 passengers and crew.

A joint global operation is in force, scouring the seas between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing for any sign of the missing plane. Today, I joined the search for one hour, using DigitalGlobe’s new crowdsourcing platform.

The premise is simple. Using its state-of-the-art satellite technology, any member of the public can scroll through 400 sq m patches of sea, scanning for any blemish on the sea’s surface. The hope is that mass public participation might reveal some hitherto unseen clue.

The volunteer is told: “DigitalGlobe has activated its crowdsourcing platform in an effort to locate the Boeing 777 jetliner that mysteriously disappeared on Saturday while in flight from Malaysia to Beijing.” Then: “This is where YOU come in.”

First off, the online helper is told what sort of thing to look for – plane wreckage, life rafts, and grey oil slicks. Even with each square taking up the best part of my screen, the objects I was looking for were no bigger than a five-pence piece.

If the searcher thinks they have found something, they can “tag” it so others can decide whether it amounts to anything.