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Apps, Science

Got the window seat? Find out what you’re actually flying over, with Flyover Country

It’s easy to ask stupid questions while looking down at the Earth from the window of a plane.

“What the hell is that long pointy thing to the left? Kind of looks like a whale knob.”

And while that mountain ridge in northern Italy you’re staring at may indeed have a phallic resemblance, a new app will help you avoid such cumbersome and embarrassing statements, and instead fill you up with knowledge.

Developed by the University of Minnesota, the Flyover Country app gives you real-time information on what it is you’re looking at beneath the plane, without needing to connect to the internet.

Even if you don’t care what “that pointy thing to the left” is, you’ll still be able to track the progress of your flight, rather than ceaselessly knocking on the cockpit door asking, “Are we there yet?”

Flyover Country, which offers similarly useful geographic information for users on a hike or a road trip, utilises GPS and offline maps so that even when you have no WiFi signal, you can still determine exactly where you are on the Earth – or above it.

It’s more than just a ‘here’s where you are right now’ app though – it was funded by the US National Science Foundation to be used for “geoscience outreach and data discovery”. It displays interactive geological maps which highlight environmental points of interest close to you such as the locations of fossils.

But I prefer to fly than go hiking or scour for fossils, so its flightpath function is what gets me going. Considering the user’s GPS-determined location, speed and altitude, the app deciphers your flight path and overlays that information onto the offline maps.

Then you can gaze down from your window seat, point at things and make intelligent comments like, “Look down there at that serrated bauxite ridge. Kind of looks like a whale knob.”

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