Project Details

Forest fire


A DigitalGlobe community

By DigitalGlobe

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @tomnod

Organisation URL:

In the aftermath of a disaster, the best vantage point from which to view affected areas is from above – specifically, from satellites. But sifting through satellite imagery is time-consuming, and in an emergency time is in short supply. Tomnod, ‘big eye’ in Mongolian, is a community of online volunteers who lend their eyes to scrutinise satellite imagery, tagging potentially important areas so that responders on the ground can be deployed effectively.

The imagery comes from DigitalGlobe, whose five satellites orbit the globe from the North to the South Pole every 90 minutes. The satellite data is uploaded to Tomnod, DigitalGlobe’s crowdsourcing platform, and when there is a crisis the crowd is called upon to help. Every click registered by a Tomnod volunteer is logged and collated, and when numerous people tag the same areas, these are flagged up as points of interest. 

In the wake of the Nepalese earthquake in April 2015, Tomnod volunteers sprang into action, and to date, 4,534 pairs of eyes have already analysed 14,700 km2 worth of imagery, making 21,975 tags of 3,128 damaged buildings, 1,191 locales of major destruction and 1,129 damaged roads. 

When the Malaysian plane MH370 went missing in March 2014, DigitalGlobe moved two satellites to the Thai Gulf to aid in the search from above, and volunteers scoured miles of ocean looking for the wreckage. 

Tomnod has teamed up with Global Forest Watch to keep an eye on illegal forest fires in Indonesia, which have recently intensified and are causing a thick smog to cover much of southeast Asia.

Tomnod’s vision is only as good as that of its volunteers, and the community needs as much help as it can get – sign up to help at

Image 'Forest fire' courtesy of CIFOR.

Last updated: 14th of September, 2015

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