This is an ongoing project I’ve been chipping away at for a while.

As I sit in my studio looking out of the window (which I probably spend a little too much time doing), I can see a steady stream of aircraft passing low over head, flying to or from the London airports. I always find myself wondering about these planes. In a city like London, the sight and sound of massive aircraft looming overhead is so common it becomes an unnoticed part of the landscape. But I’m always intrigued to know more about these machines that plough through my airspace. Where have they come from? Where are the hundreds of people on board going to?

There are ways of finding out this information, and more. Websites and apps allow you to track commercial air traffic and view all the flight details. However, as ever I find my self dissatisfied with these screen based solutions. I want to know that information about the plane flying over my head right now, but I don’t want to have to bring a website up to find out – it’s too disruptive (I’m interested, but not that interested)  I want something more persistent and ambient. So I decided to build an device that would sit on my window sill and tell me abou the planes flying over head.

It’s possible to get a feed of the aviation data and plot which planes are flying over the coordinates of my house at any one time. Running this data through an Arduino could then give me some kind of physical representation of the information, but I struggled for a while to settle on exactly what form this representation should take – in particular how to show geographic locations . Then I saw a link to this device on twitter:

Photo: Wikipedia

It’s a Voskhod “Globus” IMP Navigation Instrument. A small part of a 1960’s Soviet spacecraft, designed to show the cosmonauts projected landing sites on earth.

It’s internal workings are beautifully analog

Photo: Wikipedia

My aim was to use a similar spinning globe to show locations on my device. The results can be seen above. It’s work in progress at the moment, but most of the parts are now up and running correctly.