Google Internet Users Aid Fossett Search

By: Stewart Campbell Email
By: Stewart Campbell Email

Every day computer users, elderly and teenagers alike from all over the globe, from South Africa, England, Japan, even in Chicago, New York etc.have joined the search for missing aviator Steve Fossett.

Marius Lourens, based in South Africa, said, "I think of it in terms of, a day or two out of my live could save someone else's life."

"I have four businesses and spend time with all of them on a daily basis, but on top of that i have studied nearly 2000 satellite images to aid the search effort for Steve Fossett and am still going strong!"


Above: South African Rescue Searcher & Chopper Pilot - Marius Lourens

Numbers keep growing, but thousands of avid computer users of all ages are now aiding the search for adventurer Steve Fossett who went missing nearly two weeks ago.

Search engines such as Google provide numerous links to sites that allow users to join the search.

This may be old news but what is amazing is that millions of people from around the world who are not able to join the search physically in the skies above Nevada or on the ground and who are not trained in satellite imagery can now partake in this rescue effort.

Jeff Hays from Chicago documented his thoughts on the new search process, "I've been involved in the IT industry for about twenty years, and while I am not a geek per se. I am a computer programmer and am very current on technology."

"I also happen to be a private pilot, and learned to fly in the front range of the Rocky mountains in Colorado."


Above: Internet Searcher & Pilot - Jeff Hays

"I was never a big Steve Fossett follower, however I have watched, and followed news regarding his adventures over the years. So when he came up missing I guess I was naturally interested."

"I read that Richard Branson was trying to get Google involved in the
search, and really didn't think much about it at the time. However, later I stumbled across a link to the "Mechanical Turk" website, and became interested. I also happen to have an amazon.com account, which simplified the process of getting started."

"Initially I looked at a couple of images, and as a pilot I'm pretty familiar
with the view from 1500 ft, which is the approximate viewpoint you see
on the webpages. So it was not hard to submit them as not of interest."

"After a couple days of doing this on and off I started getting more familiar with Google Earth and started changing the viewing angles, etc. Pretty quickly I realized, that the horizontal views I was seeing were exactly that you would see from a plane."

"This led me to actually looking at some aviation sectional aeronautical
charts of the area, and putting myself in various position around the area within Google Earth, and thinking "If I were here, which way would I go if I were just Flying around?".

"I've kept at it on and off in my free time, (it's not a hard thing to do) and in addition to the usefullness of assisting in the search effort, I've
found it somewhat like an interesting puzzle. When I actually found an image with something in it not only did I get a bit excited about that itself, I also realized that I very well may have found the missing plane. What more can I say about that? I mean my lunch time, and evening computer surfing turns up a lost plane? That's quite a feeling."

"Contrarily, I have had people ask me why I'm wasting my time looking at
it? My answer is - well I'm not doing anything else right now, and if I were lost in the mountains, I'd sure hope somebody could spare their lunch hour while eating a sandwich to look for me."

New satellite images are enabling internet-based analysis by individuals hoping to help.

The project is an 'Amazon Mechanical Turk' based effort with recent images from GeoEye, supplier of many images to Google Earth, updating the images.

There you will be shown sample images of a similar aircraft and an actual recent single satellite image to review.

Users will be asked to note if there are any objects that resemble an airplane (or a damaged airplane) like the Super Decathlon Foe was flying.

Once the user has filed the report through Amazon Mechanical Turk - the internet based company will vet and cross reference your findings and contact authorities if the information is pertinent.

This is the first internet based search of its kind on a world scale allowing advanced technology such as satellite imagery to be used by the every day computer user.


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