The satellite images that may or may not have shown floating debris from the vanished Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean last week were provided courtesy of a Colorado company, Longmont-based DigitalGlobe.
The company confirmed on its blog Thursday that it had furnished the images to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Two merchant ships in the general vicinity of the locale captured by the images and an Australian navy vessel had been dispatched to search as of Friday, as were long-range reconnaissance aircraft.
Since the first potential sighting, similar images have been captured by Australian, Chinese and French satellites. But as of Sunday, no debris had been spotted by ships or planes.
DigitalGlobe said its images were captured on March 16 by its WorldView-2 satellite. The company operates five high-resolution imaging satellites which capture more than 3 million square kilometers of earth imagery each day.
“This volume of imagery is far too vast to search through in real time without an idea of where to look,” the company said. Indeed, it would make the proverbial needle in a haystack a fairly simple hunt.
But the company continues to direct its satellites to collect imagery of a wide area that includes the waters around where the possible debris was identified. It uses its crowdsourcing network of volunteers known as Tomnod to search the images of areas identified by authorities. “The efforts of millions of online volunteers around the world allowed us to rule out broad swaths of ocean with some certainty,” DigitalGlobe said on its blog.
Tomnod asks its volunteers, which anyone can join, to search the images for oil slicks, rafts and wreckage, among other objects.
While the images reflect the astonishing reach of satellite cameras, the company was quick to caution that no conclusions have been reached about the origins of the debris, “and we are not aware that any subsequent search missions have been able to locate it.”
Flight 370 disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.