I just saw an article on an amazing new service from the Flightradar24 website that tracks most commercial aircraft in real-time. It shows little plane icons on a world-wide map, which needless to say is very cluttered when you’re zoomed out to a large area. But zoom in to a smaller area and you can see each plane. But then even cooler you can click on the plane icon and find out about it (flight number, origin, destination, altitude, speed, etc).
Then there is an unbelievably cool feature that you can click “Cockpit View” and the website can connect to Google Earth, transferring the 3D coordinates + the heading and thus give you a good view of what the pilot’s are seeing out there window. I just watched flight DAL2041 land at Omaha’s airport, a route I know well. Some of the flights show 5-minute delayed data and others are “real-time”; now I’m watching a flight from Vancouver to SFO on the real-time Google Earth display and it’s completely amazing (including the smooth animation in Google Earth with a few weird aliasing artifacts).
On the main map clicking some of the aircraft also shows a line of their path of the flight thus far. The main map automatically updates with new positions of the aircraft fairly frequently.
Wow, I’m now watching a Lufthansa 747 from Frankfurt circling and lining up to land at SFO. This is just too cool. Sometimes the data updating is a bit erratic but in general this is just amazing.
It’s not often that technology wows me, but this sure does!
Take a look!