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Nowadays, flight tracking has been very useful and in use by most people. It is mostly used by the aviation people to predict delays, handle irregular operations, and analyze route efficiency.


There are many flight tracking apps/websites available for people that they can use to track flights on your phone, such as FlightAware (founded in 2005), Flightradar24(founded in 2006), etc., which offer free and enterprise services.


To understand how the apps work, we need to know where they get their data from and the limitations of existing technologies. A global sensor system known as ADS-B(Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) is used.

How does an app track planes overhead?


The data that an app receives for most commercial flights are sometimes delivered a year in advance via schedules. That data then usually remains unchanged until a few hours before the flight. Now the Pilots or air traffic operators controlling airspace on the route of the flight will update new data with a flight plan that provides specific details about the planned routing, altitude, and speed of the plane.


Once the route is fixed and the plane takes off, the app continues to get position updates from the plane via radar installations and ADS-B. All this information is combined with the app’s software, which uses it to determine the plane’s estimated arrival time, and then displays the aggregate data for the flight on the app.

How ADS-B works?


The leading edge of flight tracking is ADS-B, which relies on om sensors operated by commercial and government entities.


ADS-B differs from radar in the sense that it doesn’t rely on the reflected radio waves from fixed antennas to tell air traffic control where an object is in the sky. It works like GPS in our phones; aircraft itself determines its positions from satellite overhead. The aircraft then transmits its location and identification number along with other ADS-B data from its ADS-B transponder, which is picked up by the receiver within a range of 200 miles(the aircraft number and identification can be blocked by the flight owner and operator). 

Why do we use the ADS-B system?


  1. The ADS-B system displays all data unfiltered because the signals emitted from aircraft are unencrypted and over-the-air, like a radio signal. There will be no uncovered place left, and all the aircraft will be in a spot.


  1. ADS-B offers a precision that radar can’t and is less likely to be disturbed by atmospheric conditions or range. It also helps airplanes fly more direct routes at more efficient speeds and altitudes.


  1. In today’s date, most of the planes are equipped with an ADS-B system to upgrade air traffic control. The technology was initially developed to cover areas with no radar coverage in remote regions of the world, like Alaska. After the system was put in place, the accident rates were decreased by 47%. Also, it helped the government to build floating oil platforms.


  1. An interesting thing is that the cost to install the system in the aircraft is more affordable than using satellite communication.


  1. Earlier, this system was not equipped to handle the influx of unnamed aerial vehicles.


  1. This system was able to be used in other various technologies such as Google used this system in drones and developed a drone delivery fleet and also a UAV transponder.


  1. The apps nowadays design and establish their own receivers using Raspberry Pi and do not depend on the government and draws their own ADS-B data from over 2600 enthusiasts who feed their data into the app’s database and expect their premium service.


  1. ADS-B can transmit the data freely to any database, depending on how its operator configures its software.

Can any aircraft hide from the tracking apps?


We have already studied the precise work of the ADS-B system. Is it possible that an aircraft has been lost?


The only way airplanes can broadcast their GPS data is via a network of dedicated ADS-B receivers on the ground, on the ocean, or on a nearby aircraft. The ADS-B receivers cover a certain area; they have a certain range further, which if the aircraft goes, it cannot show it cannot extract its data. But still, most of the oceans remain uncovered. 


Earlier, some planes did not have the ADS-B system installed; this was another reason why it was difficult to track these aircraft. But in today’s date, every plane has an ADS-B system installed in it.


Although this advancement in technologies has helped to make air travel easier, there still are major problems such as air disasters, etc.


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