CarteNav Solutions Inc. has a special software system that integrates sensor data from various sources to help searchers.
In this case, satellite sensors detected objects that might be airplane debris in the ocean. CarteNav’s AIMS-ISR takes the GPS location and uses that information to help a special telescopic camera, mounted underneath a military airplane, hopefully spot the material.
The company knew its technology was being deployed by the Royal Australian Air Force. But CarteNav officials had no idea it was being used in the search for the missing Boeing 777 until they saw a photo of the system in an Australian government article on the mission.
"Here at CarteNav, like everywhere in the world, we’re so concerned for those families," said Rick MacDonald, chief technology officer at the company.
"It’s been two weeks now, it’s an awful long time not to know. We’re proud to be involved, even in a tiny little way. We hope it’s found soon."
There has been no confirmed sign of wreckage but two objects seen floating deep south in the Indian Ocean were considered a credible lead and set off a huge hunt on Thursday.
One object is reported to be 24 metres in length, the other 4.5 metres.
Australian authorities said the first aircraft to sweep treacherous seas on Friday in an area about 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth returned to base without spotting the objects picked out by satellite images five days ago.
"Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating," Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Perth. "It may have slipped to the bottom."
"It's also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres," he said.
CarteNav’s chief financial officer, Michel Lechmann, says the technology can integrate various sensors onto one screen, making the search quicker.
That’s particularly important in an area as remote as the Indian Ocean. Australian aircraft can't search long because so much time is spent flying to and from the area where possible debris was spotted.
"When we first developed the software, we called it looking for a needle in the haystack," Lechmann said. "Simply because when you’re searching an area like over the water, for even a 24-metre object, you're talking about a very small thing in a large, vast area.”
With files from Thompson Reuters