Until recently, the ability to use a flight tracker from the ground was reserved for professionals in certain fields. Without specialised training in flight control, your average citizen could not track flights any farther than from one horizon to the other. With the help of binoculars or a spotting scope, you might also be able to tell the name of the airline and (if you were a pro) the type of aircraft. Now that every aspect of our lives has been digitised, anyone who wants to can get an up-close and accurate look at air traffic. Anyone can use flight trackers and pull up all sorts of information on their screen – everything from the type of aircraft to the precise flight route, as well as take-off and landing times.
Tracking flights on the Internet
The Internet allows anyone who is connected to it to access various flight tracking services using a smartphone, tablet or desktop. The Web holds information on all the civil flights around the world. Anyone can look it up free and on demand and track flights for as long as they want. The only cost involved is for the Internet connection, which they’re already paying anyway. Probably the best-known flight tracking service is flightradar24.com. This leading flight radar provider is becoming more and more professional. In addition to the existing map views, they now also offer detailed information on specific flights. For example, if an unusual flight delay occurs due to storms, technical issues or military conflicts, flightradar24 operators will extract the data for a specific flight. They then supply this information to the media, for example, making it possible to retrace the circumstances surrounding this flight and help try to clarify unusual events, etc.
Flight tracker – what other service providers are available?
So far we’ve mentioned the services of flightradar24. Another prominent service provider that makes its international air traffic data available online is “Casper“. At casperflights.com, you can also track any flight currently that is between take-off and landing. The way that individual flights are visually presented on Casper is slightly more technical. Instead of aeroplane icons, on Casper, you track flights using a narrow zoom level with just angle brackets moving across the map to represent a plane.
There are also other flight tracking service providers, such as Plane Finder, Radarbox or FlightAware which we won’t go into here but which are in no way inferior to either flighradar24 or Casper. These services are available at:
Flight tracking – how does it work?
All of the aforementioned sites work according to the same principle. Flights can be tracked free of charge using a display of current air traffic overlaid on a map section (e.g. from the Google maps repertoire). The precise aircraft position data are based on actual radar data, compiled and imported as packages into map applications. Not only can you track the detailed progress of the flight, the service providers also receive and relay additional details on air traffic. This allows any user to obtain very specific information on an individual flight. The available details usually include:
- The type of aircraft
- The departure airport
- The arrival airport
- The current flight altitude
- The arrival time
- The departure time
When tracking a flight, all a user has to do in order to obtain these details is click the flight that they’re interested in on the map. If the user wishes to track one specific flight without having to spend too long looking through all the different flights on the map, they can simply enter the flight number. This way, all the other flights will be hidden from view. The aforementioned detailed information will be displayed. Tracking a flight couldn’t be easier.
Who would be interested in tracking flights?
Nerds are not the only ones tracking flights online. Flying holds a fascination for many people. Some people even make the trip to come as close as possible to a runway so they can watch planes take off or land. To some of these people, flight tracking is like trophy hunting: They have to observe and photograph every type of aircraft taking off or landing at least once.
And there are other, completely different and entirely practical reasons to track air traffic online. Track flights by mobile phone or computer is also useful for:
- Considering the planning of flight routes.
- Searching for a new apartment or house and making sure that it’s not located along a flight route.
- Checking the route of a flight you’re about to book to help you decide which seat to select.
- Checking if a flight is arriving on time before travelling to pick someone up at the airport.
- Making sure that a loved one’s flight is all right and getting some peace of mind.
The bottom line is that, at one point or another, a lot of people will find flight tracking interesting and informative. Some will be happy to hear that flight tracking radar is evolving over time. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to track flights in 3D. A few service providers are working on it and have already introduced prototypes. Flight-radar.eu keeps you informed on all the latest developments.