If you crane your neck skyward, you may see the contrail of a jet or two. Should you want a more up close and personal look, Plane Finder 3D has just taxied up to the Google Play gate. This app tracks flights in real time over a number of cities.

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The feature set is a bit light right now, but there is some real potential here. There are over two-dozen cities tracked in Plane Finder 3D, each with satellite imagery ground maps. You can pan around and zoom in on any plane, then tap to get the flight number, airline, and go into first-person mode. Here's the full list of features:

  • Stunning real time data
  • Powerful 3D engine and simple controls
  • Beautiful terrain and sky detail
  • Smooth contrails
  • Flight numbers and flight routes
  • Airline logos and callsigns
  • Sharing – via Twitter (Cool for holiday photos!!)

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Plane Finder 3D works by tapping into the ADS-B signals used by aircraft to relay their location to ground stations. This is a new technology, so not all planes have ADS-B systems yet. The app is fun to play around with, but it still needs more features to find mass appeal. Plane buffs take note, though.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • thequint

    Is there a web service offering the same functionality?

    • Sven L.
      • Sean Lumly

        Wow! Now that is how you do a web app! It works very well on my Nexus 10, chrome beta, though is a little slow to scroll.

      • yentrog31

        Thx Sven That link is awesome.

      • Doug768

        And their corresponding Android App is fantastic! I've had it for months now, and it's really cool. I especially like the augmented reality view, though there's some delay. FlightRadar PRO : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.flightradar24pro&hl=en

      • Michael Ta

        holly crapp. I didn't know it was that crowded in Europe.

        • Mike Reid

          It helps that population density is high and there are many aviation enthusiasts sending data to their servers.

          Less dense areas, including good parts of North America, are in need of more volunteer data senders. It can be done as cheaply as $20-30 for an RTL dongle based ADS-B receiver. I've messed with it a bit on Linux.

          Hope to see a Nexus tablet solution; The SDR Touch app has brought SDR (Software Defined Radio) to Android and I hope ADS-B support is around the corner...

          Having your own receiver could have the advantage of seeing local aircraft that are not on websites like flightradar.

    • cienki

      Here you can listen to the conversation of pilots to the airport: http://www.liveatc.net/search/

      • Sean Lumly

        That is really cool!

  • Phill_S

    I guess Die Hard 2 just got considerably more dated.

  • cienki

    How it works on One X?

  • dextersgenius

    Would be better if it worked like an astronomy app - saw a plane in the sky but don't know which one it is? Just point your phone at it, and using the camera, GPS and gyro, Plane Finder will not only know which plane you're looking at, but also overlay the flight path and give you all details!