November 18, 2011
Thanks to an update to its search engine, WolframAlpha now provides information about planes flying over your current location using information obtained by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The new service, which looks quite promising, was announced via the WolframAlpha blog. Using the WolframAlpha website or iOS app, simply type, “flights overhead” into the search location. The information provided includes a listing of the planes overhead, where they are coming from and what airline is operating each flight. In addition, the flight’s altitude and angle from the horizon relative to you is also listed. Currently, the service only works for flights with at least one end point in the U.S. Plus, the information includes a five-minute delay.
Also note that because the FAA’s data feed has a built-in delay, Wolfram|Alpha is actually computing the current position of flights in the air, based on roughly 5-minute-old location, heading, and speed information. As a result, there may be some slight discrepancy between the actual and projected position of any given flight. But the current and historical data now available in Wolfram|Alpha still makes it possible to get answers to questions you may have thought could never be answered—or may never have thought to ask.Siri, Apple’s voice recognition service on the iPhone 4S, is heavily integrated with WolframAlpha. However, at this time, the flight functionality is not yet operational. For example, when Siri is asked about flights overhead, she responds: “Sorry, I can’t help you with flights.” Regardless, this is a fascinating new feature that we’re sure others will like. To experience the service, visit http://www.wolframalpha.com or download the universal WolframAlpha ($2.99) app today in the App Store.
Wolfram Alpha LLC