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App Focus: Flightradar24

We hold the world in our pockets & it’s easy to take that for granted. Our smartphones give us limitless information thanks to our access to the internet any time we like. Want to book a hotel in Istanbul while you’re waiting at school pickup? How about settling that argument on how old Madonna is? Need to Google information for a blog article you’re writing for a local web development firm? No problem! That’s incredible - 24/7 access to the infinitely growing online universe is in our hands & 68% of all internet traffic will be from our smartphones by 2017.

One of the awesome things about smartphones, is the access to apps. Apple introduced the App Store midway through 2008 & offered 500 apps available to iPhone users. The interest was immediate & explosive, with ten million app downloads in a matter of days. Fast forward 8 years & the app store has approximately 2 million apps available with tens of billions of downloads.

There are apps for everything – games, graphing data, news, social networking, a multitude of productivity-based apps & even apps that monitor how much time you’re spending on your apps. There are some that warrant an immediate delete, but there are some that rise above the rest.

My favourite app by far is Flightradar24. It was introduced to me by an addicted friend that implored, “Trust me, Amber.” It sounds like a game, but Flightradar24 is an aviation tracking app that comes from Sweden. It offers live tracking of aircraft worldwide. Not only does it offer the flightpath of aircraft, but also gives you details about the aircraft, photos, altitudes, augmented reality views & can even broadcast any emergencies or alerts. I can hear you asking, “Why would I need this?” well, the answer is… it’s pretty damn cool.

Flightradar24 relies on aviation enthusiasts, professionals & volunteers around the globe to keep the tracker running. They have the largest network of Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) receivers in the world & offer free equipment to suitable volunteers, particularly in areas where the tracker needs more coverage. Every week, Flightradar24 ships up to 50 complete receiver sets! The receivers hosted around the world pick up transmissions from aircraft transponders & then feed the data back to Flightradar24. Not all aircraft are fitted with ADS-B transponders (eg: most helicopters, military aircraft & prop planes), but by 2020, most aircraft should have them.

It’s amazing to look up when you hear a plane overhead & can take a glance at what it is, where it’s going, how fast it’s flying & what it looks like. I found it particularly fascinating during the 2014 G20 Summit. I found myself drawn to watching Russian military aircraft patrolling off the coast near Brisbane, the Queensland police helicopter circling the CBD & other unusual aircraft landing at Brisbane Airport carrying their world leaders. Sometimes, I’ll watch what’s going on at JFK Airport in New York or watch a friend or family member in transit. Closer to home, I’ll wish the RACQ Careflight helicopter good luck as it flies overhead or see the Flying Doctor carry its precious cargo from somewhere way out west to Toowoomba Airport.

Maybe it sounds like I’ve got too much time on my hands. But, just try it & you’ll find you’re fascinated, too. Flightradar24 is a free app from the App Store, but I highly recommend getting the paid version. It has better functionality, gives you more detailed information, gives you the option to track by airline or flight number, airport weather conditions & (one of my favourite features) realistic aircraft symbols that allow you to see at a glance what type of aircraft you’re looking at. Take a look at

- Amber

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