This Is What Earth's Air Traffic Looks Like From Space

Image by ESA/GomSpace
Image by ESA/GomSpace

Satellites get a wonderful view of the Earth and since October 2015, one in particular has been tumbling through space while keeping a watchful eye on the planet’s air traffic. This is what its seen.


The European Space Agency’s GomX-3 CubeSat is a little modular satellite that’s equipped with a distinctive helical antenna. It uses that to detect the million of signals emitted by aircraft—many of which are known as ADS-B signals and contain data about speed, position and altitude. This map shows position data of aircraft that GomX-3 has spotted while it’s been orbiting the planet.

It’s hoped more and more planes will begin to transmit ADS-B signals in the future. In the long-term, a networks of satellites like GomX-3 could then be used to provide an automatic aircraft surveillance from above.



Contributing Editor at Gizmodo. An ex-engineer writing about science and technology.

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Except that it’s...not?

I mean, wow is that a misleading title. This is basically what air traffic might look like from space to a computer. But I’d say it probably looks like ones and zeros, so this is just a visualization.