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I have been using an Android app to track flights. Their information is pulled from their own proprietary database, and some (with 5 minute delay) from the FAA.

I was thinking about making an app that would do this as well by pulling from multiple data sources.

What are some good APIs, either paid or free, that gives you near realtime data of flying aircraft?

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I went down your path a while back. My conclusion is that there's already a perfectly good free service that does this aggregation: Flightradar24 and Flightaware. Personally, Flightradar24 is a lot better at real-time data, but Flightaware seems to have better routes/flight plan data. I also made my own setup for KORD (see Bret's link to aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/1510/…;. – KORD4me Apr 5 '14 at 4:53
up vote 15 down vote accepted

You can't get real-time data from the FAA without an operational need, and organizations which do receive real-time data cannot legally re-distribute this data publicly, except to other organizations approved by the FAA. An operational need pretty much means you have to be a flight dispatcher for an airline or commercial operator, not just have an interest in tracking flights.

You can get some real-time data from your local area using an ADS-B receiver. See this question for more information: ATC real-time traffic services.

If you are okay with the five minute delay, then flightaware has an API you might consider. The direct feed from the FAA is called Aircraft Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) and I believe you can apply for the delayed feed, though I've never gone through the process, and the government's site is very sparse in information. I would suggest contacting them before attempting to apply if it's something you're interested in.

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The OpenSky Network has a free open-source API for real-time air traffic data. In its current version it allows users to retrieve live (and partially historical data). The data is retrieved by a network of ADS-B receivers and consists of

  • ICAO 24-bit transponder ID to identify the aircraft
  • the flight's callsign
  • aircraft's current location (latitude, longitude, altitude)
  • aircraft's current horizontal and vertical velocity plus heading
  • Unix timestamps which indicate the age of each field

It's a REST API which provides all these data in JSON. They also provide simple Java and Python bindings. Their official API documentation can be found here. The sources for the Java and Python bindings are on github.

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@kepler22b I do not fully agree that it should be a comment, as it seems to answer the question. I would rather say that some more detail would be nice. – Federico Apr 26 at 10:51
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@Federico Added some more infos, thx for the hint – affitz Apr 26 at 12:13

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