One day, when my girl took a flight to Rome, I wanted to track her flight to see what a beautiful scenery she would see from up there. That’s when I found Flightradar24. It turned out their handheld app was capable of showing real time augmented reality data of any aircraft that would pass overhead, just by aiming your device at it. Two years have passed since I first started using the app and I am still using it on a daily basis. As soon as I hear a loud noise while I’m trying to get some sleep, I unlock my iPad and check the map to see what airplane is flying overhead.
Flightradar24 gets their airplane information from aviation enthusiasts around the world who own a ADS-B receiver. Airplanes all around the globe broadcast their GPS-position and flight information to ground stations, which in turn are sent to air traffic controllers. People who own an ADS-B receiver can choose to support the FlightRadar24 project by streaming the data they receive to the Flightradar servers. This is what powers your app.
There are a couple of major features I’d like to point out:
Flightradar24 offers a map view showing all the registered aircraft. There are in app purchases which allow you to extend the graphic set of airplanes to easily identify them.
When you select an aircraft, you will see the current flight information with the airplane’s statistics like the departed and destination airport, air speed, altitude, registration number, a photo of the actual airplane with the same registration number (if available from airliners.net), and so on. Once an airplane is selected, you can also view its registered flight route and planned flight route. This is very interesting in the case of an emergency, when you will often see the drastic deviation and holding patterns an airplane may be flying.
You can also filter your map view to only display the aircraft that you are interested in. You can filter by airliners, aircraft type, altitude and squawk.
There is also an option to send you a push notification when certain conditions are met. For instance, you could setup flightradar24 to send you a push notification in case an airplane sets its squawk to 7700 (emergency). You tap the notification and you will be instantly taken to the aircraft that is in trouble. Interestingly enough, airplanes in Europe tend to set their squawk to 7700 even when there is no case of an immediate emergency. It often happens that they will still continue to fly to their destination hours away instead of returning to the nearest airport. I guess the regulations in Europe are different.
Some very handy filters you can set include: airline, model, altitude, attitude and airspeed.
Augmented reality. You hear an airplane, you point your device to the sky, you’ll get the information you want. Very handy and a fun function. I was able to spot an Airbus A-300 600ST Beluga carrying Airbus parts this way. That made my little heart go boom!
Flightradar24 is definitively worth its value. It has all the features you would want for spotting aircraft in your vicinity or anywhere else around the globe. Some areas are not as well covered due to a lack of ADS-B receivers in those particular areas, but overall the coverage is really great. If you want to make sure whether your area is well covered, check out flightradar24.com or get the app for your (handheld) device.
If you are interested in getting your own ADS-B receiver, check this out.