Phone app that tracks planes ‘aid to terrorists’

Phone app shows the airline, flight no, departure point, destination and even the likely course.

Last Updated: Oct 03, 2010, 09:57 AM IST

London: Security experts have slammed a mobile phone application that tracks the precise location of passenger aircraft in the sky, insisting it is a serious terrorist threat and should be banned.

The Plane Finder AR app for the Apple iPhone and Google`s Android allows users to point their phone at the sky and see the position, height and speed of nearby aircraft.

It also shows the airline, flight number, departure point, destination and even the likely course.

However, the program, developed by a British firm and sold for just 1.79 pounds in the online Apple store, has been branded an ``aid to terrorists`` amid fears it could be used to target an aircraft with a surface-to-air missile, or to direct another plane on to a collision course.

The new app costing less than 2 pounds works by intercepting the so-called Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcasts (ADS-B) transmitted by most passenger aircraft to a new satellite tracking system that supplements or, in some countries, replaces radar.

However, a senior Federal Aviation Administration official has warned that ADS-B technology could be used by terrorists.

"Broadcasting the identity and location of aircraft . . . would open the door for a terrorist to attack a specific aircraft or airline," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

The firm behind the app, Pinkfroot, uses a network of aircraft enthusiasts in Britain and abroad, who are equipped with ADS-B receivers costing around 200 pounds, to intercept the information from aircraft and send it to a central database.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Parliamentary Counter Terrorism sub-committee, said: "Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness. The Government must look at outlawing the marketing of such equipment."

ANI