In Summary
  • The plane went missing early on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that has turned up no trace of wreckage.
  • The search turned up no definitive evidence, but conversation among the volunteer searchers was robust. Several claimed to have located a plane.
  • Crowdsourcing may have helped responders in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy in the eastern US and was also used during the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Three million people have joined an effort led by a satellite operator to locate the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, in what may be the largest crowdsourcing project of its kind.

The satellite firm DigitalGlobe said Monday that its search area now has some 24,000 square kilometers (9,000 square miles) and that more images are being added daily, including a new area in the Indian Ocean.

The company said more than three million people have participated in the program, with some 257 million "map views" and 2.9 million areas "tagged" by participants.

The plane went missing early on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that has turned up no trace of wreckage.

DigitalGlobe activated its crowdsourcing platform called Tomnod on March 11, inviting the public to look at the imagery from its five high-definition satellites to help in the search.

The response was so great it overloaded the system's computers for a time last week.

The company uses an algorithm called CrowdRank to determine the most promising leads, paying close attention to overlap where people tagged the same location.

"DigitalGlobe's expert analysts will examine the tags to identify the top 10 or so most notable areas and share the information with customers and authorities," a statement said.

"DigitalGlobe has direct contact with the US government and there is close and continuous coordination on this and many other world events."

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