Real-time 3D flight tracking app launched by UK air traffic control

A new flight tracking app developed by UK air traffic control company NATS promises users a new perspective on the skies above Britain, featuring UK radar data and a unique three dimensional view. While still in beta and undergoing development, users can pan, zoom and move around the airspace in 3D, learn more about how it is structured and view flight paths in and out of airports to gain a sense of the approach and departure routes each aircraft flies.

Tenerife flight approaching Edinburgh

Most existing flight tracking apps, such as FlightRadar24, use a crowd-sourced version of ADS-B; while it is a recognised flight tracking technology, not all aircraft are equipped to support it so coverage can be limited. Airspace Explorer uses radar data to track aircraft in the UK; the same data that air traffic controllers use to guide the 6,500 aircraft that fly through the skies each day. Not only is it very accurate it also offers excellent coverage and refreshes at a fast rate. The free app also provides a 3D view that gives a true sense of the relative altitudes of aircraft and the shape and size of the areas of controlled airspace in the UK.

Matthew Mills, NATS head of digital communications, said: “Airspace Explorer is based on an internal app we have at NATS, and while it’s similar to other flight tracking apps out there we’ve included some unique and exciting features that we hope will give users an insight into the airspace as we see it.

Visually track airport arrivals and departures

“Our airspace is really the invisible infrastructure that underpins civil aviation, but it’s complex and layered. To help see and understand these highways in the sky we’ve included a unique 3D mode that shows flight paths and airspace structures. The addition of radar data for the UK also means users can get a very accurate picture of aircraft arrival and departures routes.”

Apart from radar data in the UK, Airspace Explorer uses ADS-B data from Flight Aware – the global flight data provider. Airspace Explorer is available to download for iPad for free on the UK Apple App Store. A version for iPhone is currently in development, with one for other platforms under consideration.

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