We’ve all done it, you see or hear a jet high up in the sky and wonder where it’s off to as the vapour trails stream across the sky.
Well if you really are interested in the routes of these aircraft then you might just want to add the AirNav Systems RadarBox 3D to your Christmas gift list, birthday list or like we do at PlaneTalking, just self-gift!
So what is this RadarBox and do you need an anorak to use it?
The RadarBox is made by AirNav Sytems who have been creating aviation tracking tracking software and monitoring tools since 1996. It is a simple a sturdy black box of tricks that provides live tracking data for aircraft up to 250 miles from you and your PC. Accompanied in the package with two cables, a small aerial and the software disc you can soon be up and running, tracking all sorts of aircraft around the world.
This complete package not only allows you to track aircraft across the skies but also links you into a huge live network. It then allows you to superimpose everything on to a Google Earth plugin. What you get is 3D aircraft on your screen, displayed in the airlines’ livery with superb and accurate models of each aircraft type.
As with Google Earth you can zoom in or out and pan around, showing off the aircraft displayed. The AirNav software allows a variety of 2D and 3D displays for the aircraft along with detailed information on every aircraft, including type, registration, logo and route. There are over 60 aircraft types, over 700 aircraft liveries that can be displayed and, if that wasn’t enough, it also provides images and information on the particular jet you are tracking.
With the aerial and the RadarBox you are actually detecting and displaying aircraft in your area. This means you don’t need the Internet connection if you don’t want to link in to the AirNav network. This world’s first tri-dimensional worldwide flight tracking software, launched in November 2009, uses the ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast) transmissions from aircraft in your area and displays them on your computer in a similar display to that used by Air traffic Control.
The aerial in our pack is just 30cm in height and although we put it next to a window once, we were able to pick up plenty of aircraft with it just sat on the desk, well away from any view to the outside world. It is connected to the compact RadarBox by a simple screw connector on the cable. From there a USB cable links it to the computer. Three LEDs tell you if everything is working fine, a power light, a USB light and a signal light. It’s that simple to put this all together. With this set-up it also means it is easy to transport around – we even took ours on holiday where we found the WiFi was broken at the hotel but we were still able to track a few aircraft.
You can stumble across all types of aircraft using this. Most aircraft details also include a side view silhouette, making it easy to pick out the rare or unusual. We’ve tracked everything from a single engine Cessna through to turbine helicopters and huge cargo aircraft.
We haven’t got bored of finding out what commercial and military aircraft are in our area. We’ve spent hours following the Airbus A300F Beluga aircraft, flying up and down the south coast, as they take Airbus parts to Toulouse.
When you link into the AirNav network then the fun really starts. This is where you tie into to other RadarBox receivers and access aircraft around the world. We often had over 5000 aircraft listed. With simple colouring for climbing, descending and ‘in the cruise’ you can then follow your flight from take-off to landing on the map or in the tracked list.
We followed flights, where we knew either the pilots or passengers onboard, and saw one aircraft circle an airport before landing while another was delayed for a considerable time. Speaking with these contacts after their flights we were able to provide detailed information on where they flew, when they climbed and descended. along with the cities and countries they passed over. Of course we also included screen shots, like those above, just to add to the stalking feeling!
It is easy to track and follow a flight – just the click of the mouse – and you can also watch its movements on the 3D Google Earth plugin, a 2D map and altitude screen, all at the same time.
There are so many other things you can do with this set-up, you can check the weather and follow specific airline fleets through the Smart View, where you can just have one company’s aircraft on your map. All this information (and more) can be exported, if you want, in a .csv file.
There are a huge amounts of options for displaying, tracking and setting alerts with this software and hardware. It really does open your eyes as to how many air movements are going on at any one time up there. This AirNav system works incredibly well, you can just jump into it but to maximise the use of everything that is on offer you need to spend plenty of time getting to grips with all the filters and options. If you do get stuck there is the AirNav support and user forums to post questions or search for answers.
Everyone who we have shown this to, from children to commercial pilots, have all been impressed. Yes a few have mentioned security but the ADS-B data is open to anyone. Our pilot friends have been the most impressed, amazed at the amount of information on each aircraft, airline and route along with how many people must be interested in what they do for a living!
Is it perfect?
Being picky we found that the scroll bar, when viewing all the ‘tracked’ flights, always stayed in the centre after we moved it up or down. It does’t work like any other Windows scroll bar and so sometimes made it difficult to search through the thousands of flights. Our only other issue was having to reload the Google Earth plugin sometimes. All you need to do is click the green button and it is reloaded in a second so it’s not the end of the world.
These little niggles don’t detract from an amazing bit of kit. With the quality and stability of this product, from a pioneer in the industry, you don’t need to look elsewhere. With the option to download a free 3D trial version you can certainly experience a demo before you buy.
And with AirNav constantly updating their systems along with developing future projects (which include ipad and iphone support) the AirNav products are certainly taking off!
When running AirNav RadarBox 3D we use an Intel i7 Q740 4G RAM NVIDIA GeForce GT 435 Graphics Card
For more detailed information just click HERE.
To purchase the AirNav Systems RadarBox 3D hardware just click HERE.