AR ‘Plane Finder’ App Turns Flat Surfaces Into Incredible 3D Air Traffic Models

Although the skies across the globe are constantly trafficked, it’s rare for anybody to get a real, visual sense of what it looks like to have thousands of behemoth planes all moving in organized swarms around each other. Now there’s a new augmented reality (AR) app that aims to bring iPhone users one step closer to visualizing the skies, as well as what it would look like if there were a tiny airport (for ants?!) on the coffee table.

The app is called Plane Finder 3D and it’s made by the same team behind the original Plane Finder app, first launched in 2009. Plane Finder 3D is a separate purchase ( each app is $4.99), and it’s only available for iOS on the iPhone or iPad. One of Plane Finder’s team members, Reddit user lesmond, did say in a Reddit thread that the company is not currently working on an android version, although that may change “if there is enough demand.”

The app is able to provide real-time 3D views of air traffic as well as the terrain beneath it thanks to Apple’s ARKit as well as data streams coming from air traffic monitoring broadcasts, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B), Multilateration (MLAT), an FAA feed, and the FLARM feed for gliders. For example, Plane Finder is able to track many flights because the broadcasted ADS-B information has a wealth of data including, but not limited to, a plane’s call sign, position, and speed. (The ARKit is Apple’s programming interface that allows third party developers to build AR apps.)

Ultimately, for about $5.00, you get the ability to track international air traffic in real-time and 3D, investigate flight paths and holding patterns, and search for specific flights and airports. Plus, you get to turn tables or any other flat surfaces into little virtual sky dioramas, which will undoubtedly delight any plane nuts in your life.

What do you think about Plane Finder? Could you see yourself becoming addicted to watching the virtual skies? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: Plane Finder

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