A comprehensive list of flight tracking websites (1/2)
Posted On 2021-02-27
There are many publicly available resources to do flight tracking online (including military flight tracking); I am listing here those that have at least some free services available to anyone (for this reason some key player in this industry are not in my list).
I came into flight tracking few years ago, and over time, I did quite a lot of research, identifying all these resources. I am quite happy to share the result here. I am keeping it up to date as much as I can, but there are always new (and old) sites I don’t know about, therefore do not hesitate to comment if you know some I missed!
I’d also like to thank all of those who already pointed to resources I didn’t know about. Thanks all, this list would be much shorter without your help!
ADSBexchange – “World’s largest source of unfiltered flight data”
ADSBexchange is an aggregator of ADS-B feeders, relying on a community of volunteers. It is showing unfiltered data, meaning all aircraft are visible (including private jets and military aircraft). Thanks to this, it has become a reference for many in the flight tracking community. It is a great tool for OSINT, enthusiasts and journalists. Feeders (people sharing the data from their own receiver) have access to all aircraft visible on the network through API, after requesting an API key. Others have access through a map.
ADSBExchange enable its own MLAT solution, which means that airplane which are not broadcasting their position may still be positioned by triangulation if they are in range of enough feeders. Their map is based on tar1090 open source software.
ADSBhub is another aggregator of ADSB data. It also relies on a community of feeders. All their data is accessible to feeders in the same SBS format you can get from the receivers. This is more for enthusiasts with a technical background as there is no interface to track a specific aircraft or flight number, but this is a great tool if you want to increase the coverage of your own receiver. Their coverage is sort of global, but with less receivers than ADSBexchange.
Airnav Radarbox – “Disrupting an Industry. Revolutionizing Air Traffic Surveillance.”
Airnav Radarbox is a commercial website, based in Tampa, Florida, USA, relying on a network of feeders that they deployed, a community of feeders, but also some different sources of data (FAA radars, Satcom ACARS, HFDL…). Airnav was a pioneer in that industry as they started as early as 2001. As usual you can share your data. They are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. They are also selling a ADS-B dongle and one to listen to ATC. They have one of the best coverage of the market thanks to the aggregation of data from different technologies. It is definitely one of the reference in this domain.
AvDelphi – “One place for all your aviation data requirements”
AvDelphi is an aviation data provider based in Switzerland. They propose more than tracking, with a lot aviation related data available on their site (ACARS data, NOTAM, aviation news, airframes data…). They also propose some spotting tools so that you can log your observations and store your pictures. A little less well design than the other websites, they still are a great source of information.
FlightAware is one of the pioneer in the industry, based in the USA. As a commercial website, they started in 2005, focusing first on North America, and step by step increasing their coverage to the world. They now have one of the best global coverage, thanks to their access to satellite ADS-B technology, that allow them to track cross ocean flights that are not visible to normal ADS-B trackers (to be able to track a plane, the receiver has to be “in view”; as the earth is round, even with receivers on high points and aircraft at cruising levels, it is difficult to track planes beyond 250nm).
FlightAware deployed its own network of feeders and they also made it possible for enthusiasts to share the data of their own receivers. FA is also making some Raspberry Pi software available, to make it pretty affordable and easy to build your own receiver and start with flight tracking. They have been deploying tracking worldwide actively, they even sent me one for free back in the time they launch their own tracking dongle.
One of the great feature is they give you access to MLAT positions (if there is enough receivers in your area for triangulation), which means you can track some aircraft that do not broadcast their position, as is often the case with military one. At least you can see them on your tracker, even if they may not be visible to the general public.
They also provide some hardware, with some great USB dongles (maybe the best on the market, with integrated amplifier and filters), filters and antennas. If you are a feeder, you have a free access to their business account. They also make a lot of data available for free for the general public. They are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. Don’t expect to find many military aircraft. Some private jets are also filtered. They also provide a lot of services to the aviation industry.
Commercial, map, commercial flight tracker, mobile app
FlightRadar24 is one of the best commercial websites, based in Sweden, relying on a network of feeders that they deployed and also a community of feeders. They started in 2006, just one year after FA. They gain a lot of exposure in 2010 during the explosion of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that disrupted the flights over Northern Europe.
If you share your feeder’s data, you have a free access to their business account. Many great features are also available for free. They have one of the best global coverage, you should find what you are looking for with FlightRadar24. As other commercial websites, they are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. Don’t expect to find many military aircraft; private jets are more covered, but also filtered.
I also love their mobile app with an AR feature that let you know which flight is the plane above your head. They also have a great 3D view on their website developed using Cesium and Mapbox.
Commercial, map, commercial flight tracker, mobile app
Opensky-network – “Improving the security, reliability and efficiency of the air space usage”
The OpenSky Network is a non-profit association based in Switzerland. It relies on a community of feeders. Researchers and academics have access to their historical data. They claim they keep all the data ever recorded in their database. If you feed your data, you have access to a great dashboard with a lot of statistics about your receiver.
Planefinder is another commercial website, based in UK, that started in 2009. They rely on a network of feeders that they deployed and also a community of feeders. They also integrate FLARM feeds to track gliders and other small planes without ADS-B. They are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. Their main focus is on their mobile app.
Many airports and airlines have their own flight tracking page on their website. They generally use services from a major tracking website such as FlightRadar24, FlightAware RadarBox or WebTrack. The list would be too long to add here, but you can check your local airport or favorite airline website if you are interested. Airline websites generally focus on their own fleet.
TheBaldGeek is a fan of ACARS and ADS-C (satellite version of ADS-B), but he is also displaying his ADS-B data. Lots of interesting stuff on his site. He is sharing many different views on his data. Contact him if you want to start receiving ACARS data, he loves to help new comers.
On Foxtrotcharlie, I am displaying data from my trackers in Hong Kong and Briancon, France. I also have a twitter bot for new aircraft or interesting ones (military, helicopters, rare aircraft…). I use this blog to share what I learned building this site and all the infrastructure behind.
List of Twitter Bots sharing the aircraft flying above their trackers. It generally gives only a very small view on what’s going on in the area (by default it is only sharing those which are actually “flying above”), but that’s still another interesting source of data to explore if you are into flight tracking. Also in the list, some OSINT geek sharing interesting data from all the sources available (such as adsbexchange, Flightradar24, Radarbox or FlightAware).
Despite all my efforts to make this list of flight tracking websites and Twitter bots as complete as possible, I may have missed some. Don’t hesitate to comment if you know other sites, I will be happy to add them. Some links may stop to work, specially VRS servers. I am trying to keep track of this, but with some delays. Don’t hesitate to comment also if you know where the links have moved. There may also be errors. They are all mine, and will be happy to correct them if notified. The list of mobile apps will be covered in part 2.