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San Diego Researchers, Military Join Search For Missing Malaysia Jet

Above: Eric Frost, director of San Diego State University's Vizualization Center (Viz Lab) explains how he collects massive amounts of photos and data from social media to create detailed three-dimensional imagery, July 2, 2010.

San Diego researchers and military members are assisting in the search for a missing Malaysia jet, which was carrying 239 people after it took off the morning of March 8 from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

A team at San Diego State University’s Immersive Vizualization Center, known as the Viz Lab, is scouring social media and satellites to search for clues on where the jetliner went down.

The Viz Center makes detailed imagery by collecting massive amounts of photos and data from social media tools like Twitter. The data set is compiled together to create a three-dimensional visualization to capture the scene second by second, pixel by pixel.

The Viz Center has used the technology to create imagery for several recent emergencies and disasters, including the Boston bombing, wildfires, Japan earthquake and tsunami, Haiti earthquake and the gulf oil spill.

A company founded by four UC San Diego engineering alumni is also harnessing crowdsourcing to help locate flight 370. The company, Tomnod, headquartered in Colorado, uses volunteers to search through satellite imagery to look for the aircraft.

At least 600,000 volunteers have logged onto Tomnod’s website to scan through images from five satellites that cover an area between the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea.

The San Diego-based destroyer USS KIDD was one of the first responders in the search for the missing plane.

The KIDD is among several Pacific-Nation naval air and surface platforms conducting the search and rescue mission being coordinated by the government of Malaysia.

“Our combination of rescue swimmer training, sensor capabilities, and search and rescue mission expertise allows us to be one of the most capable and flexible platforms to respond,” said LCDR Eli Marshall, Air Detachment Officer in Charge on USS KIDD. “In a typical 3.0 hour sortie, the helicopter can search up to 250 square miles of waterspace.”

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