How live flight tracking works

Plane Finder is the trusted live flight tracking platform for a huge range of people from aviation enthusiasts to professional pilots – but how does it work?


Plane Finder is built on a core technology used by the aviation industry

The technology is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) enabling the transmission of real-time data directly from, and to, aircraft. Compared to what was possible with radar alone ADS-B offers a huge range of benefits to passengers, the environment and the global economy.

The Environment

The advanced routing and management of aircraft reduces fuel consumption, flight times and noise pollution


Real time situational awareness data is delivered to Air Traffic Controllers and pilots reducing the risk of accidents


ADS-B enables the reality of new airspace users like drone deliveries and autonomous air taxis to operate

Plane Finder Radar

A bespoke global network of ADS-B receivers

Here at Plane Finder we are no different to Air Traffic Controllers and pilots. What we need is data, and more specifically, accurate data.

The Plane Finder Radar

That is why we design and manufacture our own high-performance GPS enabled ADS-B receivers. The Plane Finder Radar enables us to very accurately decode the ADS-B transmissions broadcast by aircraft. We have thousands of Plane Finder receivers and data feeds across the globe sending information over the internet to our servers, we are always adding more too.

Radar Specs

How the ADS-B signal works

Follow the steps to see how ADS-B data ends up on Plane Finder

Satellite. Aircraft gets its location from a GPS navigation source (satellite).
On-Board Avionics. Telemetry and sensor systems monitor the aircraft speed, altitude, heading, barometric pressure and more.
Aircraft ADS-Broadcast. The on-board ADS-B transponder broadcasts merged GPS and avionics data over the 1090MHz ADS-B radio frequency.
Local ADS-B Receiver. All Plane Finder ADS-B receivers within range of the aircraft detect and decode the ADS-B data packets.
Data is sent to Plane Finder. The receivers feed their data to Plane Finder data centres over the internet.
Data is shown live. Data is verified, and augmented, by Plane Finder and displayed in Plane Finder apps and on

Enhancing ADS-B data

More than just ADS-B data

The data displayed in Plane Finder is not just derived from the ADS-B broadcasts. In fact the information shown would be relatively limited if we were to display ADS-B data alone.

We therefore augment the data with a wide range of additional information such as the aircraft registration/tail number, flight number, aircraft type, departure airport, destination airport, recent photos and much more.

Enhancing ADS-B data


It can be quite surprising to learn that a great many light aircraft, bizjets, helicopters and even commercial aircraft do not broadcast their coordinates over ADS-B. Here at Plane Finder, we overcome this by using Multilateration (MLAT).

MLAT is a navigational technique that involves some pretty complicated mathematics using known receiver locations and accurate timestamps.

Our Plane Finder Radar with its high quality GPS capability was designed specifically to overcome this challenge. Using four or more Plane Finder receivers tracking the aircraft simultaneously we are able to accurately plot the position in Plane Finder with very high degrees of accuracy.

More information

Interested in learning more about our data?

ADS-B benefits

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Technical aspects

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Other tracking sources

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