To Keep Airplanes on the Map, Track Them From Space


Two commercial airplanes vanished from radar in 2014. Although the wreckage of AirAsia QZ8501 has been recovered, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is still missing, with and search-and-rescue efforts coming up short.

With all the tracking technology at our disposal in the modern age, it seems incredible that planes can still disappear. GPS tracking has been around for ages, guiding your average car owner to his or her destination with the help of a soothing computerized voice. Yet airplane tracking and information gathering hasn’t evolved substantially in the past few decades, still heavily relying on ground-based radar and on-board black boxes that hold critical flight data. These technologies can fall short, as evidenced by Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing—black box and all—while flying out of radar range.