Video: Satellite Tracking Challenges Finding Missing Airline

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI)- How could a Boeing 777 carrying more than 200 people just disappear without tracking it?

That’s what we’ve all been asking ourselves since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished without a trace more than a week ago.

Professors at Mississippi State University say our satellites transmit data, which planes do receive, but like many things receivers, they do have limitations.

On top of that, if you’re flying overseas, planes have a typical standard route. If the plane goes off course or if the systems inside the plane were turned off, it will be nearly impossible to find it on a satellite or radar system.

“If the plane had landed, one thing you could do with satellite imagery is take a before and after image and do change detection, but if someone had taken the plane and hidden it, that would not have worked. If the plane is in the bottom of the ocean, the satellite imagery is not going to be able to find it either,” said Dr. John Ball, Associate Professor at Mississippi State University.

The same goes with tracking your cellphone. If the airline units were turned off, communication satellites won’t be able to pinpoint your cell phone location.


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