Asian Surveying & Mapping
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March 14th, 2014
Geography Students Aid Search for Missing Malaysian Jet

Geospatial scientist Dr Tuong-Thuy Vu, whose area of research includes disaster responses and crowd-sourcing, has already joined the list of worldwide volunteers called up by the international organisation DigitalGlobe to help locate the Boeing 777 using their Earth Observation satellite images.

Dr Vu said: “Earth Observation satellite platforms play an important role in every aspect of our life. They capture frequent and up to date images everywhere on Earth with the very latest synoptic views—up to 0.5 m resolution—of the Earth surface. In the area of emergency and post-disaster responses it is sometimes the sole data source when accessibility on the ground becomes impossible. As the search for flight MH370 enters its fifth day with ships, aircraft and helicopters, Earth observation satellite platforms have been deployed as another option.”

DigitalGlobe has put its tomnod crowdsourcing platform to work with volunteers assigned a collection of satellite images to scour in the hope of pinpointing any clues or wreckage. Dr Vu has asked his students at UNMC if they want to participate. He said: “I have looked at 40 tiles (images) so far, but no news yet. I also informed students today and asked if they want to participate. I also hope that satellite images of more extended area will be soon available.”

DigitalGlobe is a leading provider of high-resolution remote sensing images, has activated FirstLook—an online subscription service for emergency management which delivers web-based access to pre and post event imagery of world disasters to almost any desktop or web based mapping platform. It is used by emergency-response agencies in natural disasters, manmade crises and human interest scenarios. Now, two of its five satellites are scanning and capturing the images which are then available on www.tomnod.com/nod/challenge/malaysiaairsar2014 for volunteers to scan and tag the images.

Dr Vu said: “The Vietnamese authorities have informed that the national Earth Observation VNREDSAT-1 is directed to observe the Gulf of Thailand area whereas China highlighted that the system of 10 satellites have been observing the suspected areas.”

Dr Tuong-Thuy Vu’s Open-Source Geospatial Development research lab in the School of Geography at UNMC has been active in research using Earth Observation images to support disaster and emergency responses. The on-going activity focuses in integrating crowd-sourced data information to supplement/validate the analysed satellite images, which is in line with current effort by DigitalGlobe. He has contributed to this initiative by DigitalGlobe in response to the Philippines Haiyan typhoon and the MH730 search.

His OSGEO research lab is also expanding research on the quality of crowd-sourced data in collaboration with Nottingham Geospatial Institute and the Crops for the Future Research Centre.