An Airdrop photo transfer BETWEEN planes??


I guess we’ve finally gotten over the concerns about mobile phones causing interference with aircraft navigational systems. This video is both amusing and ridiculous, showing a 747 cargo pilot flying 1,000 feet below a Singapore Airlines flight. The two speak to each other and then send a file using Apple’s AirDrop protocol between the planes. Or did they really??

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXWjx1OgtMh/?taken-by=loub747



The AirDrop protocol requires both Bluetooth (for connection negotiation) and WiFi (for data transfer) to be enabled and in range. Typical Bluetooth range is only ~33 feet (10m) so getting it to work in this scenario is both unexpected and impressive. But with roughly zero other interference it makes sense that the signal carries further than usual. Or it didn’t really happen at all and this is a fun prank.



This also lends some credibility to the idea of a mesh network of planes passing data traffic between them rather than to/from satellite connections to enable in-flight connectivity. It would still require lots of hardware on board and other infrastructure investments that probably aren’t worthwhile, even with the expense of satellite connectivity. But it should be technically viable.

That said, the phone doesn’t appear to have wifi on the range issues raise lots of questions about whether this is legit.

At least we know they did fly near each other on the 29th of July:

Thanks for sharing, HS.

n.b. – Story updated to express more (well deserved) skepticism about whether this really happened or not.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

4 Comments

  1. Data is data. They’re 1000 feet apart and moving at nearly the same speed. How many aircraft in flight are that close to another aircraft?

    1. Not many, but it happens every now and then. I’ve “paced” another plane laterally for 10-30 minutes crossing the Atlantic before.

      Also, even that close there are questions about whether this is legit. Bluetooth generally won’t reach that far and that’s a necessary part of the AirDrop protocol.

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