Tuesday, May 18, 2010

24 Hours of World Air Traffic

A friend recently sent me a copy of this amazing video apparently showing the world’s air traffic for a period of 24 hours, with each green dot representing one aircraft. But is it real or is it a fake?

Quite frankly, I didn’t know. The video has been circulating around the Internet for some time, either attached to e-mail messages, or uploaded multiple times to video hosting sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Google Video, and dozens of others. So today, I decided to try and track down the people or organisation that created the original video, and see if I could turn up the definitive answer.

To my surprise, the answer was not that hard to find with both the Wired and NASA websites providing links to the clip. The original video animation was produced to be shown on the high definition 3D-Globe "Orbitarium" in Technorama - The Swiss Science Center in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Information Technology In IT, at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

It seems the boffins at the school used a commercial website called FlightStats to gather global flight and schedule information for the departure and arrival times of every commercial flight in the world. They then plugged all that data into a computer to assemble their simulation.

As mentioned, the animation shows all scheduled flights over a 24h period (based on 2008 data). Apparently, every day some 93,000 flights are starting from approx. 9,000 airports, with between 8,000 and 13,000 planes in the air at any one time!

So, to answer my own question: Is it real or is it a fake? I am happy to declare the video animation to be real. I'm glad that's cleared up.


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