As day four dawns on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, rescue crews are turning towards technology for help in finding the plane. DigitalGlobe, a company that runs multiple commercial satellites, has made high-resolution visual images available in the area where it is suspected wreckage could be found. These images have been released onto its website and they are asking for volunteers to help by looking through them to see if they can spot anything. The site, Tomnod, is reported to use satellite images and volunteers to read those images as a tool to solve “real-world problems” around the globe. So far, 3,200 square kilometers have been uploaded to the site.
DigitalGlobe spokesperson Luke Barrington is quoted as saying the images are offered up for those who cannot be driving a boat through the Pacific Ocean or flying planes above, but still want to do something to help those affected by the Malaysia Airlines crash.
If users do think they have found something of interest, they can drop a pin on the image. The site has an inbuilt algorithm that allows it to keep track of spots where a lot of pins have been dropped. The site has been used successfully in the past to locate things that may be missed in the actual space. For example, it was used to map out the areas in the Philippines most devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck last November.
However, despite this extra technology, there are fears that flight MH370 could have sunk or drifted beyond any recognition by this point. Crews helping to find the Malaysia Airlines plane must cover a large area of the South China Sea, which has areas that range from shallow to incredibly deep. The area also has a number of fast currents that could separate the wreckage quickly, disappearing it from view quicker than it can be recovered.
Search teams are also using technology under the water. They plan to lower a listening device from possible impact areas and listening for a signal from the two black boxes on board the flight. The boxes have a system called a “pinger” that sends out a sound so that they can be located in the event of a crash. Each one has a battery life of up to 30 days. However, if the plane dropped into shallow water, then noises from other ships could interfere with tracking the signal. As yet, no signal has been intercepted.
In a strange twist, relatives of the passengers and crew members traveling on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 claim they have been calling the phones of their loved ones and hearing them ring. This has been incredibly frustrating for those waiting to hear news of the missing plane. Some families have been in touch with their service providers, trying to get them to help locate their missing relatives. The phone numbers have since been turned over to the Chinese authorities.
However, in spite of the help of several technological advances, Malaysia Airline flight MH370 has yet to be found in any shape or form. But with systems such as Tomnod and greater numbers of volunteers, a solution could be reached any day now. Rescue teams from over ten countries are helping with the search.
By Sara Watson