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Malaysia’s hyperspectral imaging might track lost Malaysian aircraft

According to a recent report, a professor at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas)’s Faculty of Resource Science and Technology has become the ‘go-to guy’ for locating missing aircraft in Malaysia. He is also the first person to develop the airborne hyperspectral imaging system and applications in the country.

Hyperspectral imaging

After earning a doctorate in Forest Surveying Engineering from a University in England, the professor returned to Malaysia. He tried to apply his expertise in Applied Remote Sensing Technology locally but found the country’s topography to pose a bit of a challenge. The tropical rainforests and thick fog made it difficult for cloud-height sensors to collect necessary data.

The professor discovered that the best way to overcome the obstacle was to bring the sensor down below cloud level. Thus was borne the idea of airborne imaging where the sensors were modified and attached to aircraft like RMAF’s Cessna.

Using a hyperspectral technology that he developed in 1994, he was able to detect objects that are typically difficult to trace.

The 15kg sensor was light and portable enough to be carried onto an aircraft to retrieve and collect the ‘spectral signatures’ or ‘DNA’ of every object found during a SAR operation. These data would be analysed once the aircraft has landed.

If the DNA of the object found is within the database, the search becomes easier because the process of matching the DNA with the corresponding object becomes faster.

The professor would keep the DNA off of every object he found as the DNA for each object is unique. His spectrum data library currently keeps the DNA of several aircraft including those belonging to the Boeing 777, Boeing 737, RMAF’s Nuri TUDM and their Hawk jet fighter. If one of these aircraft goes missing, the search will become easier because their DNA is stored in the library.

He obtained most of the aircraft DNA from previous SAR missions but told Bernama that obtaining them was no easy task.

MH370

Whatever happened to the missing Malaysian aircraft MH370 remains a mystery, especially after the Malaysian government decided to call off the search at the Indian Ocean in May 2018, after four years of fruitless search.

The commercial aircraft carrying 239 passengers disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014.

While the report on the search was inconclusive, a question kept nagging the professor who wondered if it was true that the aircraft made an ‘air turning back (ATB) and where the proof of it was.

Recounting the early days of the search, the professor stated that he helped with the SAR mission on the eighth day after it went missing. After he related to the scenario to his own experience with three other missing aircraft, he was asked to go down to the location in which he believed the aircraft to be.

He flew down to the location the next day, along with a religious expert.

After an initial survey, he flew to the location the second time and used hyperspectral imaging sensors with the aid of a ‘spiritual’ expert to help ‘uncover’ the location of the aircraft. He returned for a third time to perform a search via air and sea.

The professor recorded the coordinates of the location where he believed the aircraft to be located but said that despite turning in his research, findings and observations, there had been no effort to search in the location until today.

He claimed that as with his previous experiences tracking down missing aircraft, MH370 did not crash but was instead ‘lost’. He believed the aircraft to be intact with only minor damage on the aircraft body.

The professor stated that he is under the impression that the aircraft ‘disappeared’ into a location and dimension but its fuselage and other components are intact. If the new Malaysian government wants to reopen the case, he is more than willing to share his relevant experience and expertise to help in the final search of MH370 and his Hyperspectral imaging technology.

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