If you’re like me, Flightradar24 is one of those awesome websites you just accidentally end up on every now and then. The service allows you to see an map of live flights, and by clicking on each individual plane you can see which flight and airline it is, the route it has taken, and see deeper data like altitude, speed, and squawk. Zooming in on London, for example, you wonder how there isn’t one plane crash a week. But I had no idea it was based out of the region – Flightradar24 was started in 2006 by a few aviation enthusiasts in Stockholm.
CEO Fredrik Lindahl tells us at first Flightradar24 was just a hobby project. Mikael Robertsson and Olov Lindberg bought ADS-B receivers/antennas (surveillance devices for tracking aircraft) and put them up on their houses in the Stockholm area for their own enjoyment.
“The site started attracting a lot of visitors and more and more people around Europe with ADS-B equipment volunteered to feed. Things really took off due to extensive media coverage around the time for the Icelandic ash cloud,” says Lindahl.
Since then, they’ve been adding on features to the web version, like the Cockpit View, which you can toggle after selecting a flight. This uses Google Earth to show what the pilot is seeing in real time.
Today they have over 1000+ ADS-B devices feeding data into Flightradar24, of which 90% are owned by hobbyists. In the U.S., Flightradar24 is able to grab data from the FAA with a five minute delay, giving them complete coverage of the US and Canada.
The entire operation has been self-financed from advertisements on the web version, and from downloads of their mobile and desktop apps. Their website gets more than 4 million unique visitors a month, and have more than 3 million apps downloaded.
Their apps are available for purchase on iOS and Android devices, as well as a desktop app for Mac. In addition to flight search and the live map, they also offer an Augmented Reality function that lets you point your phone at a plane, and it will show you details on what flight it is, where it’s going, and so on.
Lindahl points out there have been potential consequences to open flight tracking – this headline from the Kuala Lumpur Post says it all: Flight Radar 24 Exposed Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s ‘Private Trip’ To Milan – “Aeronautical Evidence”
Right now our whole office is having a good time messing with the service, so it’s not a bad way to kill a few minutes on a Friday. Check it out what’s above the Nordics and Baltics here.