Desktop Flight Tracker

My friends and family are always coming and going. I sometimes follow their flights, especially when they are showing up at my door, or departing on a life-expanding adventure. It’s easy to do if I stay in front of the computer with a web page open. However, when I’m at the computer I’m usually working on something else that gets in the way, and away from the screen there’s no information at all.

For today’s 7 in 7 project I created a Desktop Flight Tracker that physically indicates the altitude of a live aircraft flight from online data. The system includes an Arduino microcontroller with embedded Internet connection and a small servo motor attached to a model jet airliner. Once the airline name and flight number is loaded into the system, the model jet rises off the desktop just as the real flight takes off. The model continues to rise as the actual plane climbs to its cruising altitude, then holds its position. (I like to imagine that tiny cocktails are being served inside.) For descent and landing, the model lowers itself to the desktop, just as the real flight touches down at its destination. Please keep your seatbelts fastened until the aircraft has come to a full stop at the gate.

In the hour or so since I got the prototype working properly, I’ve tracked a couple flights as they cruised into the New York area, descended and touched down at JFK—both informative and entertaining. Bon voyage!

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