As so many people, the story about MH370 has fascinated me. Not so much the fact that we can “loose” a 777. It’s clear that large parts of the ocean are not so closely monitored as the coasts, but more as to what happened. Is this a perfect storm of mechanical failures that made the 777 a ghost plane, flying out until it ran out of fuel ? Was there an attempt to hijack gone wrong which the same outcome ?
Either way, the response world wide is amazing. One of these responses, was DigitalGlobe’s crowd sourcing campaign to locate MH370. Next to digital Globe, Mapbox tryed the same but it was soon obvious that their maps or satellite imagery is not recent enough to have any meaning in the search.
At first Tomnod seemed like a good idea, although some important features for being able to speed things up were missing:
You are “flying blind” with tomnod and need to check the area where they guide you to. There is the trick with the api url ( change “challenge” to “api” in a tomnod url ( ex: http://www.tomnod.com/nod/challenge/mh370_indian_ocean/map/140650) will give you the coordinates. But since tile numbers are not sequential, they still only give you an idea of location but no possibility to navigate.
- Imagery time
beeing able to select the specific time of the imagery ( like with mapbox) would be a huge step forward. It is of course a fact that a satellite will not always provide good imagery ( clouds etc) but at this point, there is noway to select the imagery timing while i am sure the same location will have been photographed multiple times.
This “flaws” become even more clear once it was suggested that instead of flying north to some remote location, the plane might have taken the southern route and crashed in the south indian ocean. Once this was the working theory ( which it is at this point since most of the search is concentrated on that area) Tomnod rendered itself completely useless for following reasons:
Even more now, it would be a great help to be able to enter coordinates. At this point, multiple debris sightings have been confirmed by both the Australian and Chinese government. Hundred of thousands of people sifting through tomnod, could be of help is they were able to look in that specific area.
If the plane did indeed crash on water, the best chance of finding it, would be images as close as possible to the date of the crash. As it stands now, imagery of the location where the debris has been found ( on tomnod anyway) is dated 16/03/2014, 8 days after takeoff. 8 Days debris had the chance to float away or even worse. Sink. Now these MIGHT be the best images available of the area, but we don’t know.
While the scale of 1cm on screen = 20m in sea might be enough to find a 777 on a remote landing strip somewhere, it’s damn near impossible to use these images to look for floating debris in a water mass with waves many times that size, white crests and rough sea.
Realistically, if MH370 did in fact crashed in the ocean, at this point, more then 14 days later ( or even on the images 8 days after the departure) chances to find floating parts of the boeing, are more likely to be relatively small objects. For example , when air france 447 crashed, except for the tail fin ( which was recovered 8 days in) the larger parts of debris recovered were 2 to 3m. Which would mean, looking for something of 1 to 2mm on current imagery ( not to mention most floating parts like lugage from passengers or other would be even smaller)
All of these flaws, make tomnod something to keep the masses busy, but barely useful for finding MH370