There is a new war and the first thing thousands of people have done is open Flightradar

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Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the news of the day, the month and probably the year in the geopolitical field. It is a conflict with clear implications at the global level and, as expected, can be seen from the air on Flightradar.

“Due to the high risk of aviation security for civil aeronautics, the closure of Ukraine’s airspace for civil flights is decreed (…),” the State Enterprise of Air Traffic Services of Ukraine said hours after the invasion. airspace closure has aroused the interest of users, to the point that flight radar It has 25 minute queues to get in.

25-minute queues to enter Flightradar


Queue to enter Flightradar.

Flightradar is a website that allows follow air traffic in real time. Normally it is enough to type the URL and enter, but anyone who tries to do it now will have to wait a queue of up to 25 minutes. “We are experiencing a high volume of traffic and using a virtual queue to limit the number of users on the website at the same time,” reads the text that appears on the screen when entering.

The web is saturated with the barrage of users who are following the development of air traffic in Ukraine live. It is not the first time that the website has been used to follow an event of this caliber, since it was also talked about when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010 or when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. Is, roughlya very simple and visual way of knowing the state of our skies.

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In Ukraine, which has closed airspace for civil flights, what we see is that there are no flights. And what is Ukraine like on a normal day? In the images below, posted by Flightradar on their Twitter profilecan be seen quite clearly.

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Ukraine seven days ago and Ukraine today.

How Flightradar works

To know the position of the planes in real time, Flightradar receives the flight data directly from the planes thanks to the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Systembetter known as ADS-B. Specifically, what interests us is the ADS-B Mode-S function, which allows the aircraft to transmit GPS data, speed, direction and flight number through the channel 1090MHz.

To receive this signal it is necessary to have a ADS-B receiver Flightradar24, which is connected to web servers. These receivers are normally held by aviation enthusiasts and collaborators, more than 20,000 according to data from the website itself. The ADS-B transponder has been mandatory since the end of 2020, although according to web estimates only 70% of commercial aircraft are equipped with it.

Flightradar24 ADS-B receiver - Image: Nubifer.

Flightradar24 ADS-B receiver – Image: Nubifer.

Due to the frequency used (1090 MHz), the coverage of each receiver is limited to 250-400 km in all directions, depending on the location. Precisely for this reason it is difficult to obtain ADS-B coverage in the oceans. In any case, at cruising altitude, the platform covers 100% of Europe and the United States.

For those aircraft not equipped with ADS-B, multilateration is used (MLAT) using a method known as time difference of arrival (TDOA). “Measuring the time it takes to receive the signal from aircraft with an older ModeS transponder, it is possible to calculate the position of these planes“, they explain from the web. For this, FR24 receivers are used. Most of Europe and North America are covered with MLAT above 3,000-10,000 feet.


Scheme of ADS-B operation.

These are the main ones, but there are others, such as satellite, North American radar data, and the Open Glider Network, for gliders and light aircraft. Those interested in seeing the exact aircraft models that are traceable can find the list on the Flightradar website.

And the million dollar question: can you see military aircraft? No. “For security and privacy reasons, information about some aircraft is limited or blocked. This includes most military aircraft and some high-profile aircraft, such as Air Force One,” they explain from the platform.

Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the news of the day, the month and probably the year in the geopolitical…

Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the news of the day, the month and probably the year in the geopolitical…

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