Listen. Forget “productivity”, the real reason why you download apps is to distract yourself when you’re bored, or to impress your friends. For these reasons, Stockholm-based FlightRadar24 basically belongs in my iPhone’s bottom toolbar.
We covered the company a year and a half ago, but here’s a refresher: When you open up the app you’re given a map view over your current location sowing the real-time position of the planes above you. Tapping on a plane you’re given more info including what type of plane it is, where it’s coming from, where it’s going, and the path it’s taking to get there. Digging deeper, you can also see real-time stats on the plane’s altitude, speed, and what squawk they’re broadcasting, as well as other stats on the type of aircraft.
That’s cool, but the real “wow factor” comes when you open up the Augmented Reality function. Here your phone’s camera opens up, and when you point it to a plane you see in the sky, a little tab on the screen will point exactly to the plane, telling you the same statistics. So have you ever looked up and wondered where that high-altitude jet is going? This is the app for you.
I’m not alone in my admiration for the app. Flightradar24 Pro has been the number one overall app in the App Store in 48 countries, and the number one travel app in 143 countries.
The professional aviation industry has also taken notice. In this video on CNBC you can see how Boeing’s Dreamliner operations center keeps Flightradar24’s web version up on a big screen. Another manufacturer, Airbus, uses Flightradar24 in their boardroom, which you can see at the beginning of this presentation.
In preparation of last Sunday’s Superbowl, Boeing even flew a plane to chart out a #12 in support of the Seattle Seahawks. Boeing is based in Everett, Washington.
Flightradar24 is able to collect this real-time data through more than 3,000 ADS-B receivers, which collect this real-time information broadcasted by airplanes from the ground . Many of these receivers are owned by hobbyists, and by feeding their information into Flightradar24, they themselves receive much more professional features for this realtime and worldwide data.
The company has managed to take good advantage of their success. In their first annual report the company filed a turnover of SEK 26 million (€2.9 million) with a SEK 9 million (€1 million) profit. The company offers a free version of the app, but Flightradar24 Pro (with the AR function) is available for $2.99.
Our first article painted founders Olov Lindberg and Mikael Robertsson as two flight hobbyists that built their own air tracking web service for their own enjoyment, but you shouldn’t see these revenues shouldn’t be seen as a just a “hobbiests got lucky” story. The duo also sold their other company, Svenska Resenätverket AB, behind Flygresor.se and other travel bookers, to Etraveli this past January.
Both companies have been completely funded by internal capital, and the company tells us that over the last year Flightradar24 has turned down funding from some of the largest VCs in the world.
It appears it’s clear skies for Flightradar24. In the future they’re continuing to optimize their existing business, as well as two new projects: monetizing the strong interest Flightradar24 has gotten from aviation companies, as well launching a new app that should appeal to anyone that flies commercially on a regular basis.
We’ll stay posted with their story, but in the meantime you can see a live map of the flights over ArcticStartup country, here.