Space for a Cause: Amateurs search for missing jumbo jet

Remote sensing services company DigitalGlobe announced that it would help the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Boeing 777 disappeared over the Gulf of Thailand on March 8, 2014, during en route to Beijing, China, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A multinational air and sea search effort hadn’t found any evidence of the plane.

On March 10, DigitalGlobe updated its Tomnod crowdsourcing service to let the public search new high-resolution images of the region for signs of the aircraft. In an interview with Denver Post reporter Kristen Leigh Painter, DigitalGlobe senior manager Luke Barrington estimated that more than 10,000 people would take part in the satellite search based on the 60,000 page views the Tomnod site received in the first hour. The response to the announcement quickly overwhelmed DigitalGlobe’s servers, forcing Tomnod’s website offline. An update on DigitalGlobe's website assures the public that they are working to get the Tomnod service up and running again.

Tomnod uses crowdsourcing technology originally developed for the National Geographic-sponsored Valley of the Khans project. Volunteers have participated in Tomnod projects to search for missing people and assess damage from natural disasters. DigitalGlobe purchased Tomnod in 2014.