Have you ever wondered how pilots fly in the sky, where there is no clue of the direction? Well, we have got you covered. How can pilots track their path?

Tracking their path

Pilots use several methods that help them track where to go. They are GPS, Pilotage & Dead reckoning, and radio navigation.

Image of an aeroplane flying,How can pilots track their path
An airplane finding its path in the sky.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

How can pilots track their path? This is the most valuable method of navigation. It is highly reliable, precise and available worldwide. GPS is probably the most common navigation aid in use today.

GPS uses satellites.
Pilots using GPS can find out their precise location, path, and even their speed. However, to be accurate their GPS should be able to gather data from at least 3 different satellites for two-dimension positioning and 4 satellites for three-dimensions positioning.

GPS is the most trusted among all other forms of air path tracking.

In fact, an aircraft can make precise turns on a runway even when the weather is so cloudy that pilots can see anything other than clouds.

Image of the concept of GPS.How can pilots track their path
Global Positioning System is the perfect navigation method.

Pilotage & Dead reckoning

Pilots can also depend on visual landmarks to fly their aircraft. This method is called pilotage.

The chances of error with this method are quite high. This is so because we cannot guarantee that the weather is always fine and landmarks are distinct in all conditions.

Dead reckoning uses the visible checkpoints but this data is interpreted in terms of time and distance. A computer system in the airplane will aid the pilot in carrying out the calculations. The calculations will involve aircraft speed, distance, and even wind speed.

Radio navigation

Radio navigations are used in combination with dead reckoning. It is mainly suitable when the weather is not fine. In contrast to flying from landmarks to landmarks, the pilots fly their planes on a straight line. The pilots determine their paths with the help of ground-based radio transmitters.

Radio navigation uses radio direction finding (RDF) stations, radio range, YE-ZB, radar, Very High-Frequency Omni Range, Gee, Decca, and LORAN.

The disadvantage of using this method is that it requires heavy and complex equipment in the aircraft as well as investment in ground-based equipment.R

Pilots three types of technology for flying. They are:

Image of a pilot on his cockpit.How can pilots track their path
Finding a path in the empty sky.
  • GPS – Most accurate and based on satellites
  • Pilotage & Dead reckoning – Based on landmarks & calculations – not so accurate
  • Radio Navigation – Using based on radio transmitters it requires heavy equipment and ground-based infrastructures.

Yes, pilots have various options to find their destination in the skies which looks the same in every direction.

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