Monday, November 14, 2022

Global Flight Paths & Shipping Lanes

24 Hours of Global Air Traffic is an interactive 3D globe which visualizes the actual flight paths of 24 hours of air traffic around the world. The map uses ADS-BExchange data captured on 1st Spetemebr 2022.

More than 200 million data points are shown on this global map of air traffic. Although the visualization uses a Mapbox GL 3D globe the flightpath altitudes are not shown in 3D. However on the map aircraft that were recorded at low altitudes are colored in red and the color purple is used to show aircraft flying at higher altitudes (above 18000 feet). The brightness of the flightpaths increases with the amount of aircraft traffic.

ADS-B Exchange uses crowd-sourced data. This means that the map lacks data in some areas. If there is no one with a receiver near a location then data from an aircraft transponder flying by will not be captured.This is particularly true for smaller aircraft flying at low altitudes. Cruising jet liners flying at higher altitudes are more likely to be tracked.

This map of global shipping density reveals the world's major shipping lanes and also the areas of the world that the major shipping companies avoid. The reasons why some areas of the world's seas and oceans don't see as much traffic as others can vary from geo-political reasons to the dangers of piracy and local sailing conditions.

The live ship tracking map MarineTraffic includes an option to view a density map of the world's shipping traffic. If you select the 'Density Maps' overlay on MarineTraffic you can view an overlay which shows the accumulated recorded data of all vessels on MarineTraffic over recent years.

The Gulf of Sirte off the coast of Libya is one area with a low density of ship traffic. According to Wikipedia the dangers to boats in the gulf have been known for centuries, "Ancient writers frequently mention the sandbanks (in the gulf) and their vicinity as dangerous for shipping". Elsewhere marine traffic might avoid coastlines because of Emission Control Areas. The EU, the US and Canada all have controls which force ships to use cleaner and more expensive fuel near coastlines.

The different types of routes and journeys taken by different types of marine vessel around the UK can be seen in a series of maps by Alasdair Rae. In Watching the Ships Go By Alasdair has created a number of static maps showing the vessel tracks of different types of vessel in the coastal waters around the UK. These include maps showing the different routes taken by cargo ships, passenger ships, fishing boats, high speed craft, military vessels, tankers and recreational craft.

You can also explore the different shipping routes of different types of vessel using is an outstanding animated interactive map visualizing the movements of the global merchant shipping fleet over the course of one year. The map uses AIS shipping data from Spire to visualize the movements of different types of cargo ships over the course of 2012. allows you to filter the ships shown on the map by type of cargo vessel. The narrated tour provided with this map also explains some of the interesting patterns that emerge from mapping the worldwide merchant shipping trade.

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