Tracking flights in the air in real-time with FlightRadar24

On the ground, sometimes its easy to lose track of the fact that hundreds of airplanes are flying overhead at any given moment. A new company, FlightRadar24, is developing nice aggregation tools to observe the traffic jams in the sky. Before, live views of aircraft like this were the domain of aviation professionals. Sure, it may not be the most useful new app–unless you’re an aviation fanatic–but the real time tracking of aircraft is undeniably cool.

FlightRadar24 uses public Federal Aviation Administration data in the United States and pulls data from automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) responders elsewhere. Since only about 60% of passenger-carrying airplanes are equipped with ADS-B, there are some flights missing. Regardless, you’ll most likely be able to track where your friend’s flight is if he or she is flying a major American airline. Like most new internet services, coverage is best in the United States and Europe (the other continents don’t have as many ADS-B responders on the ground.) A glance at the continental United States through FlightRadar24′s website reveal a phalanx of crisscrossing flights.

Like most new internet services, coverage is best in the United States and Europe. Also, there’s a pretty cool iPhone app associated with the service. It provides the same data in a mobile package, but the coolest feature is an augmented reality trick that allows you to point your phone at a plane and learn all the associated details with that flight, such as flight number, destination, and expected landing time. Wolfram Alpha’s apps have allowed you to see flights overhead using the same data, but the augmented reality layer is a nice touch. Head over to FlightRadar24 to try it out.