How does the website that shows all planes in flight work and what is it for?

Flightradar24, based in Sweden, has 34,000 receivers, mostly volunteers, around the world picking up aircraft signals. This data is transmitted to a central network and combined with flight schedule data and aircraft information.

As a result, the website and its mobile applications are displayed on the screen all (or almost all) planes in the air at any given timeas well as interesting information about your flight.

All of this is made possible by the automatic dependent surveillance, or ADS-B, technology used by most modern aircraft.

What is ADS-B technology?

Initially, this transmission technology was designed so that flight operations managers could locate aircraft with greater accuracy than traditional microwave radars allow. In addition, pilots can also see all traffic.

ADS-B is a relatively complex and sophisticated system that allows pilots to get the latest updates on weather, terrain, or other information. But for now, ADS-B Mode-S regularly (about once per second) transmits GPS location data (latitude, longitude, altitude), as well as speed (including vertical speed), to ​​based on the aircraft’s unique “direction” and flight number. via the 1090 MHz channel.

All of this data, oddly enough, is sent over an unencrypted channel and can be viewed by anyone: all you need is some basic amateur radio skills to get a 1090 MHz antenna and set up a simple radio receiver.

There is an easier method: find an average TV tuner with a USB interface on Amazon or any other “Chinese goods” market, buy it for a few euros, install custom drivers instead of regular drivers… and that’s it. If your PC is connected to the Internet, you are part of the massive Flightradar24 crowdsourcing project.

What does FlightRadar24 show?

The service has a web interface, as well as free and paid mobile applications.

The web interface is more advanced: Offers advanced search capabilities based on various parameters: flight number (IATA or ICAO), aircraft registration number, squawk code, airline name or aircraft model.

By searching by flight number, the user can see real-time aircraft position and, in the case of completed flights, detailed statistics including flight parameters at any time along the route.

It is possible to search for the types of aircraft used for a given flight, so you know what to expect when buying the ticket. Or, conversely, to buy the ticket according to your preferences.

When following an aircraft, you can use the usual mode “planes moving on the map”, 3D mode or enjoy the “cockpit view”. Of course, there is no live video streaming from the cockpit; the image is compiled from satellite terrain images projected from the aircraft’s current altitude.

As for mobile applications, the service is fully functional only in paid versions compatible with Android, iPhone, iPad and even Windows Phone platforms. The free version is quite limited when it comes to search capabilities. What is unique about mobile apps is that they offer augmented reality.

Here’s how it works: When you see an airplane in the sky, you can point your device’s camera at it, and the device will display the airplane image and all in-flight data. In real life, however, does not always work correctly: it is quite difficult to keep the plane moving in the frame, and the data used to identify the plane according to its location is not always accurate: the geolocation data is obtained from the GPS module of the smartphone, with accelerometer correction and built-in compass.

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