Newly improved Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology developed by the Rhode Island company Applied Science Associates is allowing faster, more accurate tracking of debris to predict and identify the location of crashes and accidents at sea.

SARMAP, an integrated GIS Search & Rescue (SAR) system, tells rescuers where to look for people after an accident at sea. The goal is to speed up the identification of crash location and expedite SAR operations to save more lives.

ASA's SARMAP system was recently featured in the July 2004 Discovery Channel documentary and investigation into the downing of Korean Airlines 007 (KAL007) which was shot down in 1983 with 269 aboard.

ASA was contacted by the Discovery Channel production company, Creative Differences, to use SARMAP to determine where the plane went down. To do this they were given location of where debris washed ashore and when the debris was found on the shoreline. With this information they were able to back track where the debris would have come from, and locate the crash site. This demonstrated that if the system were available in 1983 then people would have been able to find the wreck immediately, and there would not be any confusion on what actually happened.

A key point for the documentary was whether the crash site was inside or outside Russian territory. According to ASA predictions the plane was shot down in International waters, thus confirming information listed in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) report.

The SARMAP system increases the capability of responders to determine the speed, direction and location of floating objects, such as floating debris, or debris washed up along shorelines. Predicting the probable location of people and vessels adrift in a large body of water involves taking into account many factors and performing complex calculations. Drifting objects move constantly in response to many forces, such as the speed and direction of winds, tides, currents and wave action.

ASA does search & rescue and drift modeling for the Irish Coast Guard, Isle of Man Coast Guard, Dutch government, Singapore government, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard.

Source: Applied Science Associates, Aug. 27, 2004

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