We announced the launch of our beta flight tracking app for iPad, Airspace Explorer earlier today.
If you’ve downloaded it already, thank you and I hope you’re enjoying it. If you haven’t, you can download it now for free from the App Store.
We’ve designed the app to be as intuitive as possible and you’ll hopefully be able to discover a lot just by playing around, but I thought it would be handy to highlight a few of my favourite features and those that aren’t quite as obvious from the outset.
1) Search for an individual flight
With potentially thousands of flights be tracking at any one time, finding the one you want can be tricky, if not impossible. You can solve this problem by accessing the dashboard by tapping the top right of the screen. The magnifying glass icon will then let you search by flight number, registration, manufacturer or aircraft type as well as either its ICAO or IATA code. You can also view and play with a 3D model of the aircraft too. When the weather is nice, trying searching for ‘Spitfire’ – you never know you might get lucky!
2) Have a play in 3D mode
The 3D mode is one of things we’re most proud of in Airspace Explorer. The two dimensional view is great for showing the sheer numbers of aircraft in the sky, but what is doesn’t give you is a sense of their relative altitudes. Simply tap the 3D button on the bottom right and you’ll be able to zoom through the sky and get a true appreciation of how flows of air traffic are layered and the complexity involved in keeping them all safely separated. (Note the height over the ground is exaggerated to make for a more usable experience, but the relative distances between aircraft are scaled appropriately.) This feature is still under development and sometimes glitches – but we’re working on improving it and hope you enjoy it.
3) Interact with the airspace in 3D
One of the unique things we’ve included in Airspace Explorer is the ability to view the various types and classifications of airspace; from airways and control zones, to air routes and control areas. We’ve always considered airspace to be the ‘invisible infrastructure’, just as important as the roads and railways, so by including it in the app we hope people will get a better understanding of the role it plays in every flight and in underpinning and the health and wealth of the UK economy.
4) Marvel at all the arrivals and departure routes from an airport
As mentioned above, if you jump into 3D mode you can get a fantastic sense of depth and scale, but there is more you can do here. If you then tap on an airport, you’ll be presented with the flight tracks of every arrival and departure. What initially looks like a mess of lines, suddenly starts to make sense as you pan the camera around. Take a look and see how the flows of arriving and departing aircraft are weaved around each other. Oh and don’t forget to check this out in both 2D and 3D modes.
5) Go full Avgeek by reading Skybrary
We’ve included a lot of information in Airspace Explorer that you can either ignore, or dive into headfirst. That includes description of our airspace and how it’s structured, but you’ll probably reach peak Avgeek when accessing Skybrary, the Wikipedia of the aviation world. Tap an aircraft, swipe right on the right hand description panel and tap ‘Model’. You’ll then be transported to the aircraft’s Skybrary page where you can revel in as much technical information as any human being could ever want.
6) Ogle the 3D aircraft models
As well as exploring the airspace in 3D, we’ve also created 3D models of the top 20 most flown aircraft. Simply tap on a plane, swipe right on the left hand panel and select 3D model in the bottom right corner. You can then pan and zoom around a detailed representation of that aircraft type. It’s perfect if you need to brush up on the differences between your A320s and A319s.
These are my favourite Airspace Explorer features, but I’d love to hear about yours, so leave a comment. Alternatively if you have any questions of feedback you can contact us on our social media channels – such as Facebook and Twitter – or directly through our feedback form. We are really keen to hear your suggestions and ideas as Airspace Explorer is still in beta and we are actively looking for ways to evolve and improve it.
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