(Corrects first paragraph to show plane missing for nearly two
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, March 20 A satellite image company
said on Thursday that the sheer number of images covering a
large swath of ocean contributed to a delay in revealing what
could be debris from the Malaysia Airlines jetliner
that has been missing for nearly two weeks.
DigitalGlobe Inc, a Colorado-based company that
collects imagery for the U.S. government and other countries, as
well as private companies, confirmed on Thursday that it had
collected satellite images on March 16 that appeared to show
debris that may be related to the disappearance of Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH370.
It said it provided the images to Australian authorities,
who released them earlier Thursday. DigitalGlobe said the
Australian government had begun combing through the imagery of
the current search area only in the last few days, after the
massive international effort was expanded to the southern Indian
Ocean region and waters near Australia.
Malaysian officials described the images as a credible sign
of a possible wreckage from the flight, which left Kuala Lumpur
on March 8 en route to Beijing with 239 people aboard and
vanished after about an hour of flight.
Australian authorities cautioned that the debris in the
pictures might not be related to the missing plane.
"Given the extraordinary size of the current search area,
the lengthy duration of the analysis effort was to be expected,"
DigitalGlobe spokesman Turner Brinton said in a statement.
Brinton said the company's five high-resolution satellites
capture more than 3 million square kilometers of earth imagery
each day. "This volume of imagery is far too vast to search
through in real time without an idea of where to look," he said.
The large objects that Australian officials said were
spotted by satellite four days ago are the most promising find
in days as searchers scour a vast area for the plane.
The larger of the objects four days ago measured up to 24
meters (79 ft) long and appeared to be floating in water several
thousand meters deep, Australian officials said. The second
object was about five meters (16 feet) long.
Brinton declined comment on whether the debris was spotted
by DigitalGlobe's own analysts, government analysts or Internet
users participating in a "crowdsourcing" effort launched by the
company to help locate the plane.
Brinton said the images were captured on March 16 by the
company's Worldview-2 satellite at a resolution of about 50 cm,
and the company was continuing to collect imagery over the area
where the possible debris had been spotted.
DigitalGlobe said it had been collecting images over a
broader area than the official search area, while focusing the
efforts of its crowdsourcing volunteers on the search areas
identified by authorities. "The efforts of millions of online
volunteers around the world allowed us to rule out broad swaths
of ocean with some certainty," Brinton said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler)