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GPS app while flying

GPS app while flying

Old Sep 18, 2022, 6:05 pm
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GPS app while flying

Looking for recommendations for a GPS app that works without having a data connection on Android. What I want to do is have an app that will show me where I am while flying with more precision and more granularity than what I get from the various airlines entertainment systems. I know that the phone is capable of getting the GPS signal, just can't seem to find an app that will show me when there is no data.
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 6:42 pm
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Originally Posted by EAJuggalo
Looking for recommendations for a GPS app that works without having a data connection on Android. What I want to do is have an app that will show me where I am while flying with more precision and more granularity than what I get from the various airlines entertainment systems. I know that the phone is capable of getting the GPS signal, just can't seem to find an app that will show me when there is no data.
you'll need to download/cache the map offline (and ideally sit near a window, where the GPS signal is slightly better)

try HERE maps or MAPS.me (both have free offline download options), which menas you can download the map

you need quite some space though, HERE is 14GB for North/Central America, 22GB for europe, 12GB for asia etc.

MAPS.me downloads the basic global map (which allows you to zoom a little), before prompting you to download specific state/country


you can also download stuff like "GPS test", which shows you the lat/lon/speed/altitude (but no map). and bring a paper map?
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 7:19 pm
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I use Pocket Earth Pro on my iPhone but don't know if they have an Android version. It has good downloadable maps that can be tailored to regions within a country. In the US it's States of course, but elsewhere may be a different designation. Within a State you can download a single state, or just a city within a state. You can just as easily erase them to clean up your memory use if that might be an issue. I like that it shows footpaths and trails that have been accurate when I traveled them. Nice for parks and wilderness areas with designated hiking trails.
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 8:10 pm
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I found one called Flyover Country put out by the University of Minnesota. It allows you to set a path and downloads the map between the two points in an area 200 miles on either side of the straight line path. I'm going to try it out when I fly ATW-MCO in two weeks and see how it does. I might download one of the other options as well and flip between them.
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Old Sep 20, 2022, 11:39 am
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Google Maps always works for me during flights.
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Old Sep 21, 2022, 6:41 pm
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Go full pilot-mode with ForeFlight.

https://foreflight.com/ (Edit: look at the Mobile EFB)

They have a 30 day trial if you want to try it out for a trip. Again, like mentioned above, make sure to pre-download your travel areas.
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Old Sep 23, 2022, 7:51 am
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Google maps has always required a data connection for me. I'm going to try the three discussed upthread on my way down and if I don't like any of them I will try ForeSight on the way back. Ideally would prefer something without cost. I'll update after my trip.
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Old Sep 26, 2022, 10:54 am
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Originally Posted by EAJuggalo
Google maps has always required a data connection for me. I'm going to try the three discussed upthread on my way down and if I don't like any of them I will try ForeSight on the way back. Ideally would prefer something without cost. I'll update after my trip.
For me, I have to be zoomed pretty far out on Google Maps for it to work properly in-flight. It might be different if you have offline maps for the flight's entire route, though.
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Old Sep 27, 2022, 4:07 pm
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Google maps has always required a data connection for me.
Google maps will let you specify offline maps to download, though it might take up a substantial amount of space depending on the flight.

Alternatively, you can use a software defined radio and an ADS-B receiver to see what the plane itself is reporting, but unclear if that's permitted on a flight. (FM radios aren't permitted because there's some harmonics that can interfere with certain types of avionics in theory, but SDRs work differently.)
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Old Sep 27, 2022, 6:24 pm
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I used to take photos on flights using a GPS receiver or logger.

Now I use a dongle which connects to my camera and has an app which will stream GPS coordinates to the dongle and write them to a file every time I snap the shutter.

I've played around with my iPhone before takeoff, usually opening up the route and zooming in on different portions so that the detailed parts are cached. This lets me have a better idea of where I am during the flight. But I think iOS uses their own maps app and Compass app to represent location data.

I didn't try to download offline maps for Google Maps because it seems you can only download a relatively small tile. That might work for pedestrian or car navigation but not flights because you'd need so many tiles.

It also seems like older versions of iOS had more reliable GPS streams in airplane mode than curren versions.
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Old Sep 27, 2022, 6:43 pm
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Originally Posted by billatq
Google maps will let you specify offline maps to download, though it might take up a substantial amount of space depending on the flight.
When flying over the continental US, Google Maps shows my location on the map even though I had not downloaded the map of the US. Actually, coming to think of it, Google maps showed my location while flying over some obscure islands in the Atlantic Ocean en route from CDG to MIA a few years ago. Those were just basic maps without layers, such as satellite images or terrain information.
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Old Sep 28, 2022, 9:49 am
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Originally Posted by TWA884
When flying over the continental US, Google Maps shows my location on the map even though I had not downloaded the map of the US. Actually, coming to think of it, Google maps showed my location while flying over some obscure islands in the Atlantic Ocean en route from CDG to MIA a few years ago. Those were just basic maps without layers, such as satellite images or terrain information.
I was trying that last week on a flight from ONT to DEN. I did not purchased WiFi so have no data since the phone is on airplane mode. Google Map just show the the last place I had data which is back in ONT. I press the GPS locator icon and the map won't move to my current location which is somewhere east of ONT. Manually scroll to the right, the map won't update. Press the GPS locator again and that moved me back to ONT. I was at the window seat and pressed my phone next to the window.
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Old Oct 3, 2022, 2:56 pm
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As others have said, Google Maps by default includes low-detail maps for the entire planet, so even without data coverage you should be able to get a reasonable idea where you are. However the detail isn't good and they don't include locations for many landmarks. eg, I just checked New Zealand, and for the entire country the low-detail maps include 5 cities! You can test it yourself - just put your phone in airplane mode, and then scroll/zoom to somewhere that you haven't been recently and check the detail.

The other thing to keep in mind is that GPS doesn't necessarily work well on aircraft. If you're not by the window then there's a good chance you won't get a lock at all. If you're on a 787 then even if you are by the window you almost certainly won't get a fix. I use an app called "GPS Test" which shows you the satellites that the phone is connecting to, and then only once it's got a fix do I jump over to Google Maps.
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Old Oct 3, 2022, 9:40 pm
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Originally Posted by docbert
I use an app called "GPS Test" which shows you the satellites that the phone is connecting to, and then only once it's got a fix do I jump over to Google Maps.
I use the GPS Status & Toolbox app to find out if and when I have a GPS lock before using Google Maps while in flight.
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Old Oct 12, 2022, 4:09 pm
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Completed my trip on Monday and had some data to report back. Sitting in the aisle seat of a United CR2 from ATW-ORD and had no problem getting a GPS fix using GPS Test. I really liked GPS test and will keep it for future flights, really liked that is showed me speed, heading and altitude. Tried three mapping apps while airborne: Flyover Country, Maps.me and Here WeGo. Of the three, Flyover Country was the clear winner. Gave me the location, speed and altitude at a glance and was able to use it to identify what I was seeing out of my window on the UA 753 from ORD-MCO. Maps.me and Here WeGo are both rather obviously designed for car use and weren't nearly as helpful in the air. On the trip back nothing worked as well as it did on the way down. I was on a DL A321 from MCO-MSP in an aisle seat and was not able to get a GPS lock at all. I tried for about twenty minutes a couple different times and couldn't get it to lock up. The DL CR2 from MSP-ATW I was in the same seat as I was on the UA one a few days earlier and it was intermittent to get a lock. Took 5 minutes to get the first one and then would lose lock for 10-15 minutes at a time, get it back for a few minutes and lose it again. GPS Test and Flyover Country will be on my phone when I fly with my son MSP-SAN in a couple months so I have answers when he asks me what that is out of his window.
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