Flying With Google 3-D


Google’s 3-D maps of the Earth are proving useful in the aviation world. Dispatchers who work with firefighting airplanes for the U.S. Forest Service are incorporating the 3-D maps into their flight-following system, and they say it works great. Linda Naill, an aircraft dispatcher at the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nev., uses the Google system to manage up to 20 aircraft at a time. “When I put a [temporary flight restriction] in place, I can really see if I’m impacting someone, and if someone violates it, we can easily figure that out,” she told Government Computer News (GCN). The software helps avoid air-traffic conflicts and makes it easier to coordinate aircraft converging on the fire from different directions, according to GCN. Others also have found uses for the maps.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses them for aerial wildlife surveys and to track ships in the Antarctic. Flight-tracking Web sites like and Aeroseek have integrated the 3-D maps to show flights in real time and three dimensions. Users can zoom in to individual flight tracks, rotate around them and see them from any angle. The maps also can add layers with, for example, the Class B airspace in its 3-D form around an airport. Explore more ideas about Google Earth and aviation at the Google Earth blog.