Marufish’s experience in crowdsourcing to find MH370 using Tomnod

It is getting interesting to see more and more people willing to contribute towards the search effort in finding MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea. Today, I just came across a new about Digital Globe launch the MH370 searching program on to let the public help in searching for the airplane. This is an interesting program as it is open to everyone to contribute in the search by browsing the latest satellite images provided by Digital Globe.

I have personally tried it last night, and found it is indeed a good idea to analyze huge amount of satellite imagery acquired from the Digital Globe high resolution satellite. The process is simple and can be easily handle by people without knowledge on the remote sensing.

In my opinion, some hardware and internet requirement needed to participate in the project:

  • A decent speed and stable internet connection (it need to download huge amount of data onto the computer, and it will feed data back to the server for the updating information)
  • A computer will good LCD screen (need to be bright enough, not causing serious color distortion) and if possible decent graphic card with good memory
  • Using Internet Explorer (My Chrome having problem to load the interface)
  • A good chair (You need to stay long time in front of the computer monitor with good sitting posture)
  • A mouse with track ball (I have to scroll my laptop touchpad all night to check the image)
  • Good coffee to keep you awake

Following are the steps in participating in the search of MH370 using Tomnod:

1. Login to, you will be able to see an entry page highlighted the project “Missing Airplane: Malaysia Airlines MH370”. Please read the detail instruction provided. There are 4 categories of object need to be identify in this project, Oil Slick, Wrekage, Raft and others.


2. If you don’t have an account, please register for a Tomnod account.

3. Click on the “Start Tagging” green box, the satellite image will be start loading onto your internet browser. The first image that you might encounter could be a totally dark greenish screen, or some cloud like features in white color. You might need sometime to learn and identify the object.

4. You will notice the satellite images are divided into block, just drag your mouse around and the image fall within the box will appear. For each browsed box of image, it will be treated as checked. At the Right corner, there are three counter under the title “Your Campaign Progress”. The number of checked block will be counted and appear on the top right panel. In above picture, there are 71 blocks viewed. The yellow box indicate the current location on the image. For the area checked, the image will be appeared on the right panel of “Your Current Location”. For the area haven’t explore, it will be remain as dark green color.


5. When you encounter something that you feel it could be important to find MH370, you can click on the 4 icons on the top left. Pick the suitable categories by click on it. Then, move your mouse over the feature on the satellite image and click on the object. After clicking, there will be a purple circle appear on the object. You will also notice there will be one count added into the object found counter.

An oil platform was found in the satellite image

6. If you encounter an object but having difficulties to identify it, you can posted the inquiry on the social media or email someone that might be able to assist you. To start this, you need to place the block of the image where the object of interest in the center, then, click on the “Share this map” tab at the bottom right corner.

Ask your friend on the social media or email someone that might be able to assist you in identify the object in the satellite image.

6. Once you have completed the scene, you can click “Jump to Ramdom Map” for next scene.


Some trouble that I encounter during participating in the project:

  • Slow internet connection in Malaysia, very unstable
  • Server busy, unable to login
  • Slow downloading of satellite image
  • 4 Icons tool is unable to load
  • No response after click on the categories icon
  • The map is unable to load
  • After identify the object, no purple circle show on the map, later, the object is not highlighted
  • Unable to zoom into the object
  • Unable to use the arrow key on my keyboard to move around the image
  • The Tomnod interface unable to send the date update back to the server
  • Error in loading the Java script
Error message when login Tomnod
Error message when login Tomnod

There are still room for improvement for the Tomnod, but I have to praise for this good effort provided by Tomnod.

I will provide more details about the possible improvement on Tomnod tracking MH370 in the next article.

To know more about the object that you observed on the Tomnod, kindly refer to the article “Interesting Object Found in Tomnod satellite imagery, but no MH370 detected



One Comment