Wisconsin Geospatial News

Calling all amateur airphoto interpreters

National Public Radio reported earlier today on a new application of Google Earth– as an aid in the search for missing adventurer Steve Fossett. Adena Schutzburg, geo-blogger extraordinaire and Executive Editor of Directions Magazine was quoted in the NPR story.

From what I could dig up, it appears the effort started this past weekend, and goes something like this: willing volunteers are invited to visit an Amazon.com “Human Intelligence Task” (HIT) site to view a small snippet (roughly 1.75 acres) of imagery, and then report any anomalies they see. The theory is that a few thousand sets of eyes are better than one.

The response to this amateur photo interpretation project has apparently been gaining popularity on a daily basis. AVweb, an aviation enthusiast news site, summed things up in a way that should be of note to geospatial pros out there: “It’s unlikely that technology has ever united a segment of society like this for a common cause…”

How this project came to be is also very interesting: billionaire Richard Branson calls Google, Google calls its imagery vendors, and viola, new Ikonos imagery turns up in Google Earth.

If you take a look at the 1-meter resolution imagery for the search area, I have to admit it’s a bit hard to see anything in great detail due to long shadows and the ruggedness of the terrain, but if the Google/Amazon collaboration results in a rescue, that would be quite a story.