Just wondering if this technology exists or has been attempted. For positioning purposes.

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    $\begingroup$ Sure, if the airline is willing to pay for expensive satellite bandwidth. But a webcam wouldn't be useful for position information, you could just transmit the aircraft's position using ADS-B, ACARS or other methods. This question has a lot of relevant discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ I do not think that a webcam pointed at the ocean would provide any useful information for positioning. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ A web cam pointed at the sea could help locate a ship in distress. If the people onboard the plane missed something on the video, people 'online' could point out 'Hey we saw a white speck in the left corner of screen . or something like that. $\endgroup$
    – NormLDude
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'm confused about what you're asking here, especially after your comment: can you edit your question to be more specific? If you're thinking about using cameras on airliners to crowdsource finding ships in distress then feel free to ask about that, but right now your question seems very vague. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @NormLDude: The uses you consider do not makes sense for an airliner. You cannot identify a location looking at water. Identifying a ship from 10 km requires a powerful zoom, a clear weather, and only a small strip of water can be scanned. Many aircraft already send their GPS position to ground stations (ADS-B), however ground stations are sparse and only on lands. The plan is to use satellites to complement (the passenger will indeed pay the additional cost). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


No, there is no mid-ocean real-time streaming video useful for positioning purposes.


There are multiple questions here

Just wondering if this technology exists: Yes it does, providers like GoGo Inflight Internet have systems in place to have internet connectivity on an airplane. You could, technically speaking use this channel to stream anything you wanted but you may hog bandwidth or see problems because of the way the bandwidth is allocated. From a purely technical standpoint it can be done.

For positioning purposes: This could be taken to mean a few things.

  1. Where is the plane: In this case video does nothing for you. There are no points of reference over the ocean so capturing footage of nothing leaves you with nothing.
  2. Whats beneath the plane: For the sake of SAR or simply checking up whats out there this can be done and as a matter of fact has been done. For what its worth the tech to do this is not cheap nor is it simple. Check out this question about the SR-71 which covers how the cameras worked pretty well. In short you need a camera that moves in sync with the plane so that the pictures come out clear. Granted the SR-71 used a film camera which could be replaced with a digital system the photographic element is not nearly as important as the system that moves it to make sure the photo is correct. Even then the SR-71 was sent on very specific missions over very specific places and the film was carefully post processed. Lets say you installed one of these systems on every plane out there (in one of those perfect worlds) the amount of time/computing power to process all that video in time to make use of it would be pushing if not over the limits of modern technology.

For reference here is the camera that the SR-71 used to photograph lots of area (they had another higher res one for smaller things). you could cut down the size these days since you would not need those huge film rolls for a digital system. Either way its a large precision machine (that Im sure is not cheap to operate or maintain).

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    $\begingroup$ ...and very little ocean area is flown over by routine airline traffic. For example, look at the North Atlantic Tracks. The chances of an airliner spotting a ship, even if looking, are tiny. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 19:15

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