In recent years, I'm being terrorized by airplanes flying over here all the time at low height. For this reason, I'm trying to set up a little notification system to see if these are actually "official" aircraft, and if so, who owns them and when they fly over here. Basically, I want to be able to verify on my screen that yes, that loud noise from the sky is indeed an actual commercial (or at least "registered") aircraft, and not just my imagination or worse.

So, for this reason, I've been hunting for free flight data. That is, the current GPS coordinates for all active airplanes in the world. (Or at least around my area.)

Unsurprisingly, there's eight million companies/websites out there which provide this data, but want to get paid, or have annoying registration requirements.

Eventually, I found this: https://opensky-network.org/

I started reading its manual: https://opensky-network.org/apidoc/rest.html

And found out that they do allow unregistered people to fetch their data here: https://opensky-network.org/api/states/all

However, studying the output from that JSON blob, I notice that, currently, it only contains 2482 "states", a "state" apparently meaning an airplane in the sky. And only one out of all those is said to be from Sweden.

Does this really mean that only 2482 airplanes are in the sky right now in the entire world, and that only ONE airplane is in the sky over Sweden? Or does the origin country label ("Country name inferred from the ICAO 24-bit address.") mean from which country the airplane is "owned"/based? Or where it started from for the current flight?

Whatever it means, 2482 airplanes sounds a bit low to me. Could this really be accurate? And if so, if this website can give it away for free, how can the others charge so much money for it?

  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer Had you bothered to actually read my question, there would be no doubt about what I asked. That you would latch onto this detail and ignore my question shows me that you are one of the many people out there who have zero intention of helping. Thanks for the downvote, BTW. $\endgroup$ – Landcrab Nov 1 '20 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ @landcrab I've tried to address some of your questions in my answer below, but you are likely to get a better response if you avoid emotive terms and exaggerations in your question and focus on the things you really want answered. $\endgroup$ – CatchAsCatchCan Nov 1 '20 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ Do you live near an airport? And perhaps there is a communication issue with English not being your first language, but if you are feeling terrorized and are having trouble determining whether the aircraft flying over your house are real or imaginary, ("or worse" as you said!) I might recommend that you seek professional counseling. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Nov 1 '20 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ I'd suggest finding out what the closest airport to you is and looking up their approach and departure plates. It's a little difficult to me (a non-pilot) to relate those to a "real world" map, but I'm sure some here would help you overlay that with your local town. It may simply be that you're on the approach or departure path for your local airport. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Nov 1 '20 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ You can first check four opensky receivers in your area. This post on their network tells how to do that. It does sound like you might be situated under an approach or departure path for a nearby airport. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Nov 1 '20 at 22:38

The flight data provided by the various aggregators, including the OpenSky Network is gathered by volunteers operating ADS-B receivers at their own expense. OpenSky had about 1100 receivers on line when I looked, covering predominantly Europe and the US (FlightRadar24 claim 13000 and use other sources as well.)

The range of ADS-B transmissions is limited by geography and altitude, so unless there is a receiver within range the aircraft won't be recorded. That range is limited to a couple of hundred miles or so but an aircraft at low altitude, or flying over hilly or mountainous terrain will only be picked up at much closer ranges.

Additionally, not all aircraft are required to carry ADS-B equipment.

So, your figure of 2482 aircraft seems reasonable for the area covered by OpenSky.

You haven't said where you are, but it's quite possible that you're out of range of the nearest OpenSky volunteers. If so, OpenSky won't help you.

You'll have more success with a commercial organisation like FlightRadar24 or FlightAware, but if you don't wish to register that avenue is closed to you. Even so, non-equipped aircraft won't show up.

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    $\begingroup$ If OP is really out of range of the nearest receiver, they could also set one up themselves (OpenSky - Improve Coverage). $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Nov 1 '20 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Bianfable True, but if the OP won't pay for access to, say, FR24, they're not likely to want to fund a receiver. $\endgroup$ – CatchAsCatchCan Nov 1 '20 at 20:28

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