euroViz2

European airspace is some of the busiest and most complex anywhere in the world. Every day thousands of air traffic controllers guide millions of passengers safely to their destinations.

Yet to most people, the choreography going on above them is entirely unnoticed – it quite literally goes over their heads.

Some might say that is how it should be. ‘Why do I need to know about air traffic control as long as it gets me where I need to go?’ might be the argument.

But, that ignores one very important point. Airspace might be the invisible infrastructure, but it is every bit as important as the road, rail and utility networks we all rely on everyday. It is the lifeblood of our island economy, connecting the UK to the rest of the world.

Getting it right matters and we all have a stake in it.

That’s why we created this data visualisation showing a typical summer’s day of air traffic from last year. It’s an amalgamation of two data sources – UK radar data from 21 June and European flight plan information from 28 July – and it clearly highlights the structure of airspace across the continent.

A few highlights include the North Atlantic tracks that connect Europe with North America, the airways that run up the spine of the UK, the holding stacks at London’s capacity stretched airports and the military manoeuvres off Anglesey in Wales.

We hope you enjoy it and that is acts as a small reminder of the incredible work air traffic controllers, working with pilots and ground crew, do every single day.

Vital statistics:

  • On a typical July day there are around 30,000 flights across European airspace
  • Approximately a quarter fly within UK controlled airspace
  • The total distance flown by these aircraft is 25 million nautical miles
  • That’s 998 times around the Earth
  • Or 104 trips to the Moon
  • On 21 June, 5,675 aircraft departed or arrived from UK airports, of which…
  • 2,295 departed from or arrived at Gatwick (894) or Heathrow (1,401)
  • 1,532 were overflights
  • The video is 1440x faster than real time

Comments

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11.03.2014

16:20

prlabpak

Why has no-one commented on this? This is a fascinating video showing how flight data has been analysed along with radar data to produce an amazing visual representation of the skies teeming with planes!

11.03.2014

20:18

Peter Copeland

It opens your eyes to the complexity that has developed in our skies over a hundred years.

12.03.2014

04:38

Colin Sweetman (@colsw)

Excellent visualisation. Well done.

12.03.2014

10:36

Paul Rogers

Fantastic, would be great as a screensaver too

Paul Beauchamp 12.03.2014

10:41

Paul Beauchamp
Senior Press Officer

Glad everyone likes the video!

Paul – if you’re after some hi-res screen grabs, we’ve added some to our Flickr channel. They should make great desktop wallpaper. http://www.flickr.com/photos/natspressoffice/sets/72157642206189985/

Paul

12.03.2014

13:54

Diego Rizzi

Really awesome! Great job!

12.03.2014

14:21

Justace

This looks great! Just like everybody else I am mesmerized and could simply watch this all day and not feel like I wasted any time. Can you tell me what tools you used and your workflow to create this masterpiece?

12.03.2014

17:16

aizolnai

Great work Paul, you’re a great communicator! This may not be the best forum, but can you share some of the geo-geekery behind the scenes? You know I did aerospace 25 yrs ago when ATC was basically mainframes…

12.03.2014

17:56

dreamer

music ?

12.03.2014

18:02

PhooeyToFear

Very cool. I’ll be doing a write-up about this as it should put some people’s fear of flying into perspective and help them overcome it.

12.03.2014

20:56

Fernando Marcos Maciel

Wow… this is really awesome. May I ask what kind of software/solution was used to render this? Tks!

12.03.2014

21:20

Maciej Dabrowski

It’s fantastic that it’s possible to show all of this in such a beautiful way. You did great job. Thanks

13.03.2014

12:10

Bryan

Absolutely amazing. Couldn’t you use this technology to help find that missing plane?

Matthew Mills 13.03.2014

14:22

Matthew Mills
Head of Digital Comms

Thanks for the comments. For info, the music is ‘Data day’ (apt eh!). It’s by Ben Ashford and available at focusmusic.com.

13.03.2014

14:24

Dmitry

Do you think it would be possible to make a “screensaver version” of this video? (remove the time indication, loop seamlessly, beef up the resolution)

13.03.2014

20:01

Nick Wahoo

Awesome work. Everyone should be proud.
Sure I speak for many – any chance you could enlighten us with a brief on what you used to create…?

13.03.2014

21:07

Frank

Amazing, simply amazing. Also the music is great. Whats the name of the music title please?

14.03.2014

05:00

peter j. m

It is a showcase of how complex situations with a high risk component can be managed. Large and small companies could learn a lot from this.

14.03.2014

10:49

john

What is the cumulative effect of the planes exhaust fumes at this high altitude? Ever watch a contrail how it spreads across the sky. The real climate changer. Its blocking our sun. Giving more rain. Cloud seeding? Life blood or Death Blood? Wake up, smell coffee.

14.03.2014

11:15

PeterD

I love this video, thanks.
Is it just commercial flights or are private and military flights included in this?

Paul Beauchamp 14.03.2014

11:53

Paul Beauchamp
Senior Press Officer

Hi Peter,

Glad you like the video! We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response. To answer your questions, there are some private aircraft included – you can see them especially clearly in the close up scene of Gatwick. In terms of military, keep an eye on the north west of Wales!

Thanks,

Paul

14.03.2014

18:00

Brian Rickard

Very nice work!

One question. Since there are 1440 minutes in a 24-hour (solar) day, this video should be one minute long if it represents a 24-hour period at 1440X real time. Is it actually at 720X real time?

14.03.2014

18:50

Yeshwanth Venkatesh

Hello Paul, I really loved the visualization. I am a rookie data scientist, I was wondering if you can share the dataset that was used for this visualization ?

14.03.2014

21:21

Nadir Mattoo

Real time ALL planes in the air over the US….http://www.flightradar24.com/34.37,-100.15/4

15.03.2014

00:22

Doug

Awesome video!

15.03.2014

11:43

Pilotman

Impressive movie!

15.03.2014

14:55

Amanda

Fantastic video. Highly captivating and puts into perspective the operational side of the industry.

17.03.2014

16:56

Maria

This is an incredibly beautiful visualization! Just out of curiosity, how was it created? (What programming language did you use?)

18.03.2014

20:01

Horia

impressive, can you share some technical details about the data set and geographical rendering?

19.03.2014

23:43

Ivan Chao

Astonishing scene !
Could you make a film for Asia area ?

Matthew Mills 20.03.2014

17:14

Matthew Mills
Head of Digital Comms

Thanks so much for the feedback. We never thought so many people would find air traffic as beautiful as we do! In response to some of the questions, here’s some technical details…

Technology wise we are importing the radar and flight plan data into a custom written java program which re-formats the data into something the 3d software can handle.

The trails and backgrounds are rendered separately in Maya 3D and then the 20 or so layers generated from 3D are composited in After Effects to make one complete shot.

The individual shots are edited together, captioned and combined with music in ‘Final Cut X’ to give the finished result.

The speed is 1440 times normal speed across most shots although we slow the action down in the Heathrow and Gatwick shots. The time windows also overlap in places as we wanted to show certain scenes from different angles.

It took around 6 weeks in all to create from storyboarding our ideas to final product. We’re really pleased with the final result and hope it helps give others an insight to the 24x7x365 operation above our heads!

24.03.2014

22:20

Dan Kashey

Anyone remember “Highways in the Sky”? CCF 1991

08.04.2014

09:29

Tao Nguyen

Hi Team NATS,

you have made an awesome video!

Would it be possible to license your visualisation for commercial use?

Greetings from Germany,

Tao

13.04.2014

01:11

Jesus Corujo Puga

Please use yours technology to find Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in the night ocean are dark and this plane have several light

23.04.2014

18:51

Jürgen Sroka

Hi Paul great animation
I would like to use your animation for one personal multimedia art work, where a sort of UFO shows up in between all these others planes, i already made a first try and it looks great.
I could send you a sample ..
Would it be possible to get your permission for this?

best regards for your work anyway

Juergen from Germany

03.05.2014

03:59

Jerry Mathews

with all these data , just curious why MH370 disappeared and no one knows where it is

14.06.2014

19:05

David Fraser

Hi guys,
This is a tremendous animation. I enjoy debunking a certain theory involving contrails and I now use this video as an illustration of how busy our skies are.
many thanks.