Monthly Archives: April 2008

GPS on the plane: Where am I?

Last weekend, I went for a really quick visit to Germany by plane and had the possibility to try out my new GPS while being airborne. Since I had chosen the somewhat cheaper GPS unit, I had to have a window seat in order to receive enough GPS satellites for the proper calculation of the position.

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“My” plane coming in from Frankfurt-Hahn

I took Ryanair from Oslo-Torp to Frankfurt-Hahn and therefore, the plane was a brandnew Boeing 737-800. While sitting next to a window and putting the GPS on the armrest, I had enough reception during the entire flight and could always see where we were.

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Data view

The picture above shows the data view of the GPS. You can see (bottom) that the plane is travelling at a speed of 824 km/h at the cruising altitude of 37820 feet, which is roughly 11.5 kilometres. The “Distance to destination” (i.e. Frankfurt-Hahn; top left) is 546 kilometers and the estimated time of arrival (ETA) was 18:02.

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Map View

Much more interesting however, was the map view. Here I could see where exactly on the map we were. This helped while being above Denmark to recognize the Danish coastline and parts of the German island of Sylt. Later, above Hamburg there were too many clouds, so nothing of the city was visible.

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Just clouds

Back at home, I put the data from the GPS into my laptop. Since the GPS logs the position every second, you can follow the entire trip. Unfortunately, I had totally forgotten to switch off the GPS during final approach and landing ( ;-) ), which made it possible to even see at which speed we touched down on the runway. Very interesting data.

On the flight back, I took SAS from Frankfurt/Main airport and only got a seat in the corridor, which made it impossible for the GPS to receive anything. This personal GPS on the plane is definitely something I don’t want to miss in the future.