Bits and Pieces
Electronics Corner - Flightradar24.com
By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159
For more than a century, people have been gazing skyward and wondering where the aircraft flying overhead was going, how high it was, and where it came from. If that object of your fascination is under the direction of air traffic control, you can now find out all about it on your desktop, laptop, or even your phone or tablet device. As they say, "There's an app for that." You can get a free version (with advertising) or pay $2.99 for the iPhone app and similar prices on other devices.
Example with Embraer flight highlighted
Visit Flightradar24's website to find an amazing array of capabilities in one package.
As you will see, all planes presently flying under ATC are visible. Zooming with the plus/minus signs and dragging the map lets you focus on the area you would like to know about. If you select a particular aircraft with your pointer and click on it, you will see on the left of your screen information about the aircraft's origin, destination, flight number, altitude, speed, latitude/longitude, and radar ID. You can even get a view of the whole route plan and a simulated cockpit view by clicking on those specific buttons in the information pane.
The primary source of information is automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transponders which update the map pretty much in real time. In addition, all other traffic under ATC in the United States and Canada are input by the FAA, which is updated about every five minutes. The data for the aircraft shown in yellow are derived from ADS-B, and the ones in brown are from the delayed FAA feed.
The Greater Toronto Airport Authority uses Flightradar24 in the communication centre for flight and weather tracking. When you click on a flight to monitor its progress, you will notice that its route is mapped and that the route track is actually coloured to show differences in altitude. There may be variations from one implementation to another. The author wrote this based on the web-based version for his laptop.
Through the mystical powers of your web browser and cookies, you will also notice that Flightradar24 initializes where you were when you last ran the app, so if you live in Vancouver, you don't have to look at that irrelevant clutter from Toronto!
You should note that not all aircraft would show, based on where they are, whether they have ADS-B and whether they are under ATC.
There are a number of exceptions to what is displayed for security purposes, too. Air Force One, the U.S. president's aircraft, does not show, for example.
Enjoy Flightradar24 and let us know about your favourite website, too.