How does flight tracking work? An interview with the Plane Finder team

Flight-tracking: not only for avgeeks

Flight-tracking: not only for avgeeks

Of all aviation-related apps, I am really fascinated by flight tracking ones!

Curiously enough it is not just avgeeks that use them these days: I have seen friends otherwise not particularly interested in aviation using them, "because they are cool". 

But how do flight tracking apps work? Who is behind the system that lets you monitor in real time most of commercial aircraft that are up in the air at any given time? 

I recently had the chance to get in touch with the people at Plane Finder, one of the most popular flight tracking apps, and  conduct a short interview with them with the aim of getting these questions answered...

Q: Could you please tell me in your own words what is Planefinder?

A: Plane Finder provides real time aircraft tracking for hobbyists, professionals and for anyone who looks up at a plane and thinks that "I wonder where those people are going?".

 Plane Finder is a different app for different people. Our app users range from pilots and air crew all the way through to people out walking their dog!

To make this happen we gather information from a range of sources, including data coming direct from the aircraft, and present this in a useful and meaningful way in our apps and on the internet.

Q: How did the project start and how has it evolved?

A: Plane Finder, and Ship Finder too, started as a hobby - we wanted to know where the planes and ships were going and realised when the iPhone came out that we could create an app that would be fun for us to use! Turned out other people liked them too!

Q: It started as a hobby, but is it now a business or a not-for-profit project?

A: Plane Finder has evolved into a business - whilst still being our hobby too! We work full time developing the apps, running our websites and maintaining and growing our ADS-B network of data receivers and data sources.

Q: What is your business model?

A: We earn income from our app sales. We are entirely self funded and continually re-invest to grow our data network and improve what we do.

Q: If I understand, you rely on a network of enthusiasts to gather the aircraft movements information. How do you manage to coordinate this amount of information? do you monitor the accuracy of all data that is relied onto you?

A: Our data comes from our own receivers operating globally, professional organisations and enthusiasts. We do indeed monitor the accuracy of the data and have a range of controls in place to ensure issues are kept to a minimum.

Q: What main differences are there between your platform and other flight-tracking apps such as Flightradar24?

It is inevitable as time goes on that we are compared to other services and are flattered when others follow what we do.

We were the first to produce a live aircraft tracking app, the first to introduce an Augmented Reality (AR) plane tracking app and the first to create a true 3D app. We pride ourselves on data quality, innovation and excellent customer service backed up by our ever expanding global data network. We will continue to try our best to set the benchmark for creative, useful and fun live plane tracking both in our apps and on the internet.

An example of augmented reality (AR) applied to flight tracking

An example of augmented reality (AR) applied to flight tracking

Regarding our network - if we don't have data coverage in any area then we very much welcome hearing from people that can help us. We are able to supply free equipment, and also software, and apps!, for those with their own receivers. Contact us at

Q: Thanks a lot for your time! I really need to check that aurgmented reality feature, looks pretty impressive!

If you wish to learn more about air travel and aviation-related apps and technology, keep an eye on this section: we have plenty more coming up soon!