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GPS on an airplane.
March 10, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Ever wonder what a GPS looks like on an airplane?
posted by deathpanels (54 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Umm, doesn't that tiny amount of electromagnetic radiation pose a catastrophic risk to that huge expensive aeroplane's navigational systems? Seems foolhardy.
posted by mattoxic at 4:08 PM on March 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


Dude's just watching a scene from Harry Potter, you guys.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


SIR I'M GOING TO HAVE TO ASK YOU TO PUT YOUR DEVICE IN AIRPLANE MODE
posted by cmoj at 4:12 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Careful now, I know for a fact that iPods release dangerous amounts of pilot-killing radiation when used during the flight, who knows what this can do.
posted by The Whelk at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Never wondered, but sort of looks like my cousin Joey driving in Montana.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


I did this on a flight right after I got my first TomTom years ago. The funny part was I was heading over West Texas at 400mph was it kept wanting to lock me to a road below but couldn't because the plane was going too fast.
posted by birdherder at 4:14 PM on March 10, 2012


My old man purposely puts his TomTom in German female voice so he can argue with it. We think it's a femdom thing.
posted by mattoxic at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh. I thought it might be something like this: Garmin GTN 750 in action.

But yeah, I guess turning on your cheap little GPS in an airplane is cool too. I guess.
posted by graftole at 4:29 PM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Years ago, me, my boss, and one of my coworkers flew Delta flight 1776 (SLC to BOS) and were the only people on the flight. My boss took out his GPS and was doing this kind of thing with it -- the flight attendants all gathered around and were watching it with us, since they didn't have anything better to do.

Best flight ever.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:30 PM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Please observe the speed limit. Please observe the speed limit. Holy shit dude, you're going 300 mph over the speed limit, I give up."
posted by kmz at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Recalculating... Recalculating... Recalculating...
posted by starman at 4:40 PM on March 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Looks like some of the shortcuts my dad knows
posted by brand-gnu at 4:41 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please observe the speed limit.

Heh. "Turn right in 200 yar- ... Oh forget it, it's 3 miles behind you now."

Rob Brydon on Welsh sat navs.

P.S. It's not so much the EM interference, it's that (a) most incidents occur at take-of or landing, and (b) if an incident occurs, flight crew want people to pay attention to them, and not to their phones, etc. That's why you can use them in flight.
posted by carter at 4:44 PM on March 10, 2012


(Please never link to wimp.com. instead Google the headline they use, and go to the original content creator. Thank you)
posted by growabrain at 4:51 PM on March 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I try this every time I'm on a plane, problem is I always use a smartphone that doesn't have any local map data, so I get to see a dot moving ontop of checkboard texture.
posted by floam at 4:54 PM on March 10, 2012


Well I messed that up.
posted by carter at 4:55 PM on March 10, 2012


I'll be flying to St. Martin in the morning with an iPad, a copy of iNavX, and a Dual GPS puck — I'll have to try this!
posted by nicwolff at 5:00 PM on March 10, 2012


The horror!
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:06 PM on March 10, 2012


Wikipedia mentions sources which show that there is concern that a cell phone could disrupt plane navigation, though apparently Boeing couldn't find any effect.

But a GPS device doesn't transmit--it is just a passive receiving device, so in any case, it shouldn't be a problem (unless it has Bluetooth or some kind of 'live updates' feature).
posted by eye of newt at 5:06 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Huh. I tried to use a consumer GPS I had on me in an airplane once and it couldn't pick up a signal at all.
Umm, doesn't that tiny amount of electromagnetic radiation pose a catastrophic risk to that huge expensive aeroplane's navigational systems? Seems foolhardy.
GPSes don't transmit, they just receive signals.
P.S. It's not so much the EM interference, it's that (a) most incidents occur at take-of or landing, and (b) if an incident occurs, flight crew want people to pay attention to them, and not to their phones, etc. That's why you can use them in flight.
You can't use cellphones at all, even long after takeoff. Thus "airplane mode"

Really the whole thing is ridiculous, people keep on coming up with new reasons for the ban, but it never really makes sense. Most likely, it's simply because people would prefer not to listen to other people's conversations.
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Really the whole thing is ridiculous, people keep on coming up with new reasons for the ban, but it never really makes sense. Most likely, it's simply because people would prefer not to listen to other people's conversations.

Also, you will not get a cell phone signal at 35,000 feet. Cell towers all radiate downward so you can pick up a signal on the ground. You'll never get cell service that high up, and you'll just drain your battery trying.

And honestly, you would be surprised what can cause interference. We do EMI testing whenever we add new equipment, and there are usually problems. Even things like servo motors on gimballed mounts have caused unacceptable interference on ATC frequencies. Of course, we have something like 35 different radios on the plane, so it's a little bit more complicated than a typical airliner. It usually isn't life threatening, but nuisance noise increases pilot workload and can cause them to miss communications.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:24 PM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Delmoi - I worked at at company that had to do extensive EMI testing on their equipment. One failure that I had to address was a piece of equipment that only failed around a Nokia cell phone, no other brand we tried would replicate the failure. Since that incident I have always felt that the minor inconvenience of not having a cell phone on was worth it.
posted by troll on a pony at 5:26 PM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, you will not get a cell phone signal at 35,000 feet. Cell towers all radiate downward so you can pick up a signal on the ground. You'll never get cell service that high up, and you'll just drain your battery trying.

Have you ever tried? I have and I'll get signals for 5-15 seconds at a time when I'm over populated areas. Usually just long enough for the phone to get an updated local time of day and send/receive a text message or two.
posted by floam at 5:26 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Direct YouTube link
posted by filthy light thief at 5:27 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've tried that a few times and it never worked; it always craps out during takeoff. I just assumed that consumer GPS devices couldn't operate correctly above a certain speed.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 5:30 PM on March 10, 2012


Consumer GPS hardware will disable itself above a certain altitude and above a certain speed. This is to prevent its use in DIY cruise missiles and other military devices.
posted by fake at 5:40 PM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Have you ever tried? I have and I'll get signals for 5-15 seconds at a time when I'm over populated areas. Usually just long enough for the phone to get an updated local time of day and send/receive a text message or two.
The real issue is that cellular spectrum is not only sold by frequency, but also by altitude. ATT, Sprint, etc. all own the ground-level spectrum. Gogo (and possibly others) own the high altitude spectrum, and operate up-facing towers to serve data up to planes.

Using an ATT cell phone beyond the altitude where ATT owns spectrum would be a violation of their spectrum license.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Best flight ever.

Pshaw. About 20 years ago I was trapped in a holding pattern over new york for 2 hours on a TWA (!) flight (An L1011, no less -- remember those rust buckets?) from Spain that had both the entire Kool and the Gang entourage and the entire University of North Texas Jazz Ensemble (one of the best such programs in the country). A jam session broke out in the aisles of the plane. Awesome....
posted by spitbull at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


spitbull, I remember the L-1011 because of The Ghost Of Flight 401.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:51 PM on March 10, 2012


This is to prevent its use in DIY cruise missiles and other military devices.

Actually, it's to prevent use on ballistic missiles. Cruise missiles are basically just airplanes. You can't easily distinguish a cruise missile from a plane just based on flight speed and altitude.
posted by ryanrs at 6:22 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used my Garmin 305 watch to record a flight from Austin to New Orleans a few years ago. Being able to see our ground speed and distance traveled at a glance was awesome, as well as importing the data to Google Earth and seeing the flight path, including taxiing to/from the gate.

Thanks, The Future!
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:36 PM on March 10, 2012


nope. never.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:40 PM on March 10, 2012


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang RELOADED
posted by not_on_display at 6:53 PM on March 10, 2012


So it looks basically like the moving map built into the seat back entertainment system, but with a higher frame rate.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:15 PM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Garmin will happily drive you across a lake when on a ferry as well.
posted by maryr at 7:17 PM on March 10, 2012


I've tried that a few times and it never worked; it always craps out during takeoff. I just assumed that consumer GPS devices couldn't operate correctly above a certain speed.

This wasn't a car nav type thing, it was one of the old style 'hiker/boat' type GPSes. It just showed you a (fairly rough) map with major highways, didn't do any navigation or anything else. It seems like it would have been useful for pilots of small aircraft even. But it didn't work on this plane. I figured it was shielding or something.

We were definitely going slower then 999 knots.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on March 10, 2012


eye of newt: "But a GPS device doesn't transmit--it is just a passive receiving device, so in any case, it shouldn't be a problem (unless it has Bluetooth or some kind of 'live updates' feature)."

It still has a local oscillator that ends up emitting some EM waves.

That said, the entirety of the "don't use electronics on planes" thing is 100% pure unadulterated bullshit. Perhaps I shouldn't tell the FCC this, but I have carried on conversations with AMPS (a 3 watt bag phone, no less), TDMA, and CDMA cell phones on aircraft while taking off, while landing, and while in level flight at low altitude. (Aircell is expensive, yo!)

I suppose you might give the pilot an earful of TDMA chirp if you were the pilot and you were holding your phone up against your headset.

It's bad for the cell sites on the ground once you're up too high, and for the same reasons you become increasingly likely to drop the call as you go up and can consequently "see" more cell sites. This is a familiar problem to some people who live on high ground overlooking large cities.
posted by wierdo at 8:22 PM on March 10, 2012


I have been viewing my GPS receiver on airline flights for five years. In fact, it is the only reason I bought a GPS receiver -- actually it was my family's group gift to me. I specifically wanted it for flight purposes.

Most airlines allow GPS use during cruise, but you should be discreet about it because the aircraft crew often do not know their own policy, and ultimately the crew has the final call. So if they see you using it, they can make you turn it off, even if it is allowed by the airline. So when they come down the aisle with the cart, hide the thing,

As mentioned above, GPS units do not transmit. While they may have local oscillators, you can see above in this thread for info above their relative power compared to laptops. I'm a firm believer in keeping yer goddang cell phone off during flight, but GPS receivers are not a problem. Note: I'm an aerospace engineer and an electrical engineer.

This web page gives you the airlines that allow / disallow GPS receiver use in flight. Here are some excerpts.

http://gpsinformation.net/airgps/airgps.htm

The Airlines which OFFICIALLY APPROVE the use of GPS receivers during CRUISE. The GOOD list is getting longer!
This actually means pilot discretion in all cases.

* British Airways
* Continental Airlines (as of August 2007, changed AGAIN! 4th time!)
* Delta Airlines (as of May 2009, UNteathered HANDHELD GPS units only allowed.)
* JetBlue Airways (USA, Changed back to OK as of April 2007)
* NorthWest Airlines (Flight operations book under rule 120.8.5)
* SouthWest Airlines (Changed AGAIN as of January 2009.. This is THREE changes in since early 2008.)
* United Air Lines (may ask if your GPS is FCC Class B approved. All handhelds are. Show them in the manual.)

Airlines which OFFICIALLY DO NOT APPROVE the use of GPS receivers at ANY time during flight.
(*) Individual Pilots may allow GPS use. (It never hurts to ask the pilot on any flight. Oftentimes, cabin attendants say NO automatically. If the cabin attendant says "no" respectfully ask them to make your request to the pilot.)

* Air Tran
* American Airlines (Changed again as of October 2009)
* Horizon Airlines(*)
* US Airways (was US Air) (as of December 2007)

(the above is just an excerpt, click through for the full page)
posted by intermod at 8:23 PM on March 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oops, yeah, I named the wrong kind of missile.
posted by fake at 9:11 PM on March 10, 2012


I did this while flying up to Alaska a few years ago on Alaska Airlines with a car GPS unit like in the linked video. Looks like they don't allow GPSes according to the link in intermod's comment. Whoops. Anyway, it was pretty fun to see it "driving" at 500 MPH. More fun than when I did it with a normal GPS unit.
posted by zsazsa at 9:25 PM on March 10, 2012


nice
posted by jseon at 9:57 PM on March 10, 2012


Yep, that's pretty much what I thought it would look like.
posted by quadog at 10:27 PM on March 10, 2012


GPS works on planes. And ballistic missiles have little use for GPS, since they're, um, ballistic. Cruise missiles need steering.
posted by Goofyy at 12:19 AM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ballistic missiles still need to be steered to their target on the descent phase... Hell even plain old bombs dropped from an aircraft can have GPS guidance on them to help target accuracy (JDAM).

Consumer GPS receivers do not function when at an altitude of over 11 miles (58,000 feet) and speed over 1001kn, which is well above the limits of normal aviation.

As for mobile phones on aircraft, the FCC bans them because of the disruption to the cellular network from the mobile phone being 'seen' by multiple cells and causing channel disruption... This of course does not apply when there is a picocell in the aircraft...
posted by nielm at 1:34 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want this motherf**king GPS off this motherf**cking plane.
posted by gene_machine at 3:42 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, the entirety of the "don't use electronics on planes" thing is 100% pure unadulterated bullshit. Perhaps I shouldn't tell the FCC this, but I have carried on conversations with AMPS (a 3 watt bag phone, no less), TDMA, and CDMA cell phones on aircraft while taking off, while landing, and while in level flight at low altitude. (Aircell is expensive, yo!)

"My planes haven't crashed" is != to "can cause problems". Most plane crashes are the result of a number of relatively minor failures conspiring in the worst possible way. So sure, everything works fine when everything else is working fine. We can't be sure everything will be fine when everything else isn't working fine, and that's why the use of these devices is frowned upon.
posted by gjc at 9:26 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, the entirety of the "don't use electronics on planes" thing is 100% pure unadulterated bullshit.

Kent Brockman: Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.

F*cking armchair engineers ...
posted by intermod at 6:42 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just ask the crew if I can turn on my GPS (Magellan SporTrak Pro). They've always said yes. It seems to match whatever's displayed on the cabin map screen thingy (well, not the temperature, obviously).
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:21 PM on March 11, 2012


Apart from alertness in the event of an emergency, the other BIG reason to keep your electronics tucked away at the start and end of a flight, is the danger of them becoming missiles in the cabin, should things go sideways. And things are far more likely to go sideways during taxiing than any other point.
posted by Goofyy at 10:46 PM on March 11, 2012


Most plane crashes are the result of a number of relatively minor failures conspiring in the worst possible way.

Actually, simple human error is the cause of most plane crashes, and it pretty much always has been. If you have data to support your claim, gjc, I'd like to see it... but don't make serious claims about accident fatalities based on assumptions.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:30 AM on March 12, 2012


gjc: ""My planes haven't crashed" is != to "can cause problems". Most plane crashes are the result of a number of relatively minor failures conspiring in the worst possible way. So sure, everything works fine when everything else is working fine. We can't be sure everything will be fine when everything else isn't working fine, and that's why the use of these devices is frowned upon."

LOL, I wish they were my planes! ;)

Yes, in the interest of excessive caution, one probably ought to avoid using one's cell phone when flying at low altitude in low visibility conditions. Just in case. After all, the instruments are the only thing allowing the pilot to fly the plane safely in those conditions.

That said, I'm perfectly happy with airlines not allowing the use of cell phones. The less idle chatter the better, IMO. I'd rather they not use BS to sell the policy, though.
posted by wierdo at 3:46 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Consumer GPS hardware will disable itself above a certain altitude and above a certain speed. This is to prevent its use in DIY cruise missiles and other military devices.

I just tested the GPS on my tablet on a plane yesterday and it worked just fine, fyi.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on March 19, 2012


Burhanistan, the altitude limit appears to be 60,000' or so, so normal flights (~10,000') are nowhere near high enough (nor fast enough: >1200 mph).
posted by IAmBroom at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2012


Whoops, I suppose I could've read that link first.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2012


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