What is Tomnod?

Tomnod (the Mongolian word for “Big Eye”) is a crowdsourcing platform run by commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe that combines the powers of crowdsourcing and timely satellite imagery. It enables volunteers to identify objects of interest in satellite images, typically for response and recovery efforts after disasters.

The crowdsourcing platform allows volunteers to comb through imagery captured by DigitalGlobe’s constellation of satellites and “tag” areas of interest that are suspicious or require further study. An algorithm is then used to tally up these “tags” and flag areas that consistently attract attention.


Examples of Previous Tomnod Campaigns

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370

Just hours after the disappearance of Flight MH370 and its 239 passengers while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, DigitalGlobe repositioned two of their five satellites over the Gulf of Thailand region – the last known location of the aircraft.

Tomnad then launched a campaign to allow volunteers to scan and tag satellite images of the search area. The virtual search party were given directions to tag any hints of airplane wreckage, life rafts, oil slicks or anything interesting or suspicious

Over 8 million joined Flight MH370 campaign on the Tomnod platform, tagging millions of possible clues spanning 1,007,750 square kilometres of high resolution satellite imagery (DigitalGlobe, 2014).


Sampson Flat Bushfire, Adelaide

Within 12 hours of The Sampson Flat bushfire which started on Friday 2nd January 2015 in the Adelaide Hills, two satellites were making regular passes over the area and providing detailed photographs of the fire ground.

Tomnod then launched a crowd sourcing campaign to enable volunteers to help identify burnt buildings, damaged roads etc. More than 3,500 users from around the world began pinpointing buildings destroyed by the bushfires days before damage assessors could access the site. Volunteers were able to match a pre-fire map with the latest satellite images and determine areas where buildings had been destroyed or badly damaged. Online maps were also created to plot the growing footprint of the bushfire and display ready reserves of people willing to help during the fires.

Overview of Worldview-2 RGB satellite imagery acquired on the 4th (Copyright DigitalGlobe)


Hawaii Forests

In partnership with Hawaii’s Nature Conservancy, Tomnod launched a crowdsourcing campaign to help preserve Hawaii’s remaining native forests which were becoming threatened by invasive plants that were aggressively spreading throughout. In fact, these invasive species had contributed to the destruction of more than 50 percent of Hawaii’s native forests, according to The Nature Conservancy.

The campaign targeted two invasive plants: the Australian tree fern and the African tulip tree.

Tomnod figure 2 & 3


The project allowed volunteers to pinpoint the location of each weed for The Nature Conservancy to focus its efforts on and curb the spread of these plants.

Tomnod’s crowdsourcing platform has been involved in the response and recovery efforts for numerous natural and man-made disasters, but this was the first campaign launched specifically for environmental conservations efforts.

How to use Tomnod

To become a part of this invisible army, just visit the Tomnod website. Click through the introductory text and press Start Tagging! on the Tomnod screen to start your search.