New Zealand student develops plane tracking system using QR codes and a Raspberry Pi

Benjamin explains his project at ASB

Inspired by the 2014 disappearance of flight MH370, New Zealand year 8 student Benjamin Mueggenburg has developed what he calls a Visual Plane Locating System. It is designed to overcome some of the problems with the existing system of tracking planes, namely RADAR. The system uses a Raspberry Pi and a webcam to simulate an orbiting satellite. The “satellite” looks down on the Earth and identifies planes (represented by toy planes in Benjamin’s project) by scanning QR codes on their wings. The project won him two top ASB Bright Sparks prizes for “best in junior science” and “best junior concept”. You can read a short interview with him over at ASB and watch a video of his project below.

6 comments for “New Zealand student develops plane tracking system using QR codes and a Raspberry Pi

  1. Bonzadog
    5 November 2016 at 11:43 am

    A good idea, but can a satellite read a QR on a moving wing in various cloud covers?
    Perhaps a constant non switchable GPS transmission to a SatLink would resolve the cloud cover problem.

    • Michael Horne
      5 November 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Honestly, I think it’s just a nice proof-of-concept rather than a really workable soluton, but good point 😉

  2. Jan
    5 November 2016 at 3:18 pm

    plain or plane?

    • Michael Horne
      5 November 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Doh! Thank you!

  3. Eric Howland
    9 November 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Most long distance flight is above the clouds. I understand from wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagery_intelligence) that some satelites have a 4 cm resolution. So QR codes could work. I would think it would be better to not use QR codes but rather have giant bar codes from wingtip to wingtip. You probably only need one unique number from the plane for the system to work.

  4. Benjamin Mueggenburg
    3 December 2016 at 12:04 am

    Hi everyone at recantha,

    Yes it’s me Benjamin, the creator of the project and thank you for your comments. Bonzadog, I took your comment into account and did some research. Apparently most planes have GPS on board that the pilot uses to navigate but the thing is only some planes have a system to send the GPS information back down to earth and to Air Traffic Control. But then again, the military system of GPS is very reliable, and if a soldier can use a handheld device in the middle of nowhere and still be able to connect to the Command Center and Mission Control.

    Another thing, this system was thought as a backup to radar, not an alternative. Radar is a great system and has been since WW2, it’s just the moments like MH370 makes you think there should be a backup plan.

    Also about looking through clouds. I contacted DigitaGlobe (https://www.digitalglobe.com/) and they said they have satellites which uses short wave infrared to see through clouds and smoke, however if the clouds or smoke is too dense then it won’t see through it. Also shortwave infrared has a lower resolution than using their normal satellite cameras.

    Thank you all for your comments,

    Benjamin

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