See What AirPlanes Are Flying Overhead with Siri & iPhone

Mar 20, 2014 - 33 Comments

See AirPlanes flying overhead with Siri and the iPhone

Have you ever seen a plane flying overhead and wondered just how high up it was, where it was going, or what flight number it identifies as? Now you don’t need to wonder anymore, because your iPhone (or iPad) can tell you exactly what flights are flying above you by way of the ever-useful iOS assistant Siri.

Siri can get the aircraft flight number, altitude, angle, aircraft type (the actual plane model like a Boeing 767-300, Airbus, or a Learjet 60, Cessna, etc), slant distance in mileage, and even a nice sky map showing where the sun or moon is in relation to the flights, helping to place them out in the sky. All of this comes courtesy of Siri’s connection to WolframAlpha, but the data itself is provided by something called ADS-B, an FAA tracking technology aimed at increasing flight safety and efficiency. And now you have access to that data in the palm of your hand thanks to Siri and the iPhone, how cool is that?

To get flight sky data for your current location and for other locales, just ask Siri the following type of questions:

  • What airplanes are flying above me?
  • What airplanes are flying over San Francisco right now?
  • What airplanes are flying over the Grand Canyon?
  • What airplanes are flying over [location]?
  • Which planes are overhead right now?

If you live in an area with a lot of air traffic, you’ll find the angle in degrees and the sky map data particularly handy, both can help to determine which plane is which using some additional visual cues. The sky map is visible by scrolling all the way down through the Siri response:

See flights over a location with Siri

Or you can get overhead flight information for distant locales, just in case you’re wondering who is enjoying a view of some particular landmark or location:

See airplanes flying above with Siri on the iPhone

Use this to quell your own curiosity, satisfy your inner flying nerd, discover which plane is leaving those long vapor trails behind them, debunk some chemtrail or UFO speculation, or maybe help to answer which of the planes flying above you is the one with inflight wi-fi that your buddy is iMessaging you from. This seems to only work with traditional planes and aircraft, and when testing it out with nearby airborne helicopters they did not seem to show up for whatever reason. Whether or not this works outside of the USA remains is not entirely clear, but because the data arrives from the FAA it very well could be US-only, or at least a regional thing depending on your country.

Mac users without Siri don’t need to feel totally left out, if you get flight information sent to you through email you can use Mail app to track flights with the accompanying Dashboard widget. Not quite the same, but still convenient and interesting.

Whether you’re a fan of flight or just curious what planes are in the skies above you, now you can know in an instant. This is fun little find from CultOfMac.

Looking for some more interesting or useful Siri tricks? Don’t miss our Siri archives, we’ve got plenty of things you can do with the smart assistant.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

33 Comments

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  1. Nevin Williams says:

    It seems to work in Canada…

  2. Bharath Krishna says:

    Didn’t work here in India

  3. Mandy says:

    Definitely works in Eastern Ontario Canada. Super cool. My kids love it.

  4. John Benerba says:

    Haha – debunk those chemtrail “specualtions”. At least the rest of the article was accurate and factual. One day people will clue into chemtrails. Progress can be slow ;)

  5. Tomgi says:

    Doesn’t seems to work for the MH370 Boeing 777.

  6. Gerrit Snel says:

    Did not work in the Netherlands. Basically only got web search results back. Even choosing WolframAlpha from one of the options, did not give results line the ones shown above.

  7. Simon Lawson says:

    Doesn’t work in the UK. Siri just returns the results from it’s Bing web search. You can still ask about flights over US airspace.

  8. Kevin says:

    Another US only tip. Could you give us something that we can all use please?

  9. katbel says:

    Doesn’t work in western Canada either, sigh

  10. katbel says:

    P.s. at least you know where your readers are from : )

  11. Ken Schmidt says:

    Does not work in Paradise (Playa del Carmen Mexico)
    Ken

  12. Chuck says:

    Doesn’t work in Stillwater, OK – all I get is a website search.

    • Jimlat says:

      Same here in West Berlin, NJ (SE of Philadelphia)…only get the websearch results…cool idea if it works…

  13. David Wilcox says:

    All I got was a listing of where people thought MH370 was. :-(

    Does this work in Malaysia?

    David.

  14. chris says:

    Didn’t work in Manchester, UK.
    Would have been useful.

    Chris

  15. David S. says:

    Doesn’t work in Sydney Australia. I wonder about the Indian Ocean though…

  16. Martin says:

    Not working in sweden yet.. =(

  17. jayse says:

    doesnt work here in BC Canada. took me to a web search….

  18. Jenna says:

    I’ve tried every phrase possible, and siri just tries to web search what I said every time. I tried the same phrases on my mom’s 5S(I have a 5) and it worked for her but not me. Any ideas? My iOS is updated to the latest version.

  19. William says:

    Jenna..turn on your location and it will work…had the same problem

  20. Chris says:

    It wasn’t working for me turned on location service for siri and it works, iphone 5 in kelowna BC canada. Pretty awesome was feeling left out lol. Now that the funs over on to the next find.

  21. Erin says:

    I’m here in Tokyo, Japan. I turned on my location services for Siri (they were actually already on anyway, so I just double checked them). I’m still only getting web searches.

    I guess it doesn’t work for Japan, then?

  22. Joey says:

    It’s not working here in Brazil also. :(
    Anyone from Brazil had success?
    Even with location service active…
    Thanks

  23. Cindy says:

    Privacy>Location setting fixed it… per Chris’s email… Thanks! We have a lot of streaking here so I want to check it out

  24. Kilo says:

    Doesnt work in chicago

  25. Derfgis says:

    doesn’t work here in the Philippines

  26. Deddy says:

    Does not work here in Indonesia and also Malaysia…..anybody from South East Asia has a success so far ? Sigh #airlinesnerd

  27. HoustonBeerMan says:

    ‘Location’ on, still doesn’t work for me in Jackson Hole, WY

  28. David Haskett says:

    Doesn’t work in North Florida.

  29. Herbert Richard says:

    You have to turn on the Location for Siri specifically after turning on the general phone Location.

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