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“Planes, they all transmit their location. It’s more of like a security feature after 9/11. Instead of radar they all have identifiers, and they transmit their speed and location,” said the University of Central Florida freshman Jack Sweeney.
The 19-year-old told Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino an algorithm focused on public data enables him to uncover who owns the aircraft and subsequently track individuals across the world. The college freshman said tracking proves difficult for many people because a large portion of the planes on public websites are blocked.
“I make it more available for others to see,” added Sweeney.
The Florida teen said that he has seen private jets and helicopters from Russia travel to interesting locations in recent days, including Dubai, New York, as well as yachts at sea. Sweeney went on to say that despite the shutdown of U.S. airspace to Russian jets, many of these aircraft circumvent this issue because they are not registered in their country of origin.
Sweeney first rose to public notoriety when he started a Twitter account focused on tracking the whereabouts of Tesla founder Elon Musk’s private plane. His new hobby includes automated Twitter accounts called Russian Oligarch Jets, @RUOligarchJets and @PutinJet.
The latter specifically focuses on the whereabouts of planes belonging to Russian VIPs and Vladimir Putin. The accounts have a total of nearly half a million followers.
Sweeney has not yet been contacted by government entities for help in identifying and tracking Russian aircraft as they likely have data far beyond the reach of the public domain.
In addition to sanctions placed on Russia, President Biden announced in Tuesday’s State of the Union address the United States would close air space to Russian flights and vowed to seize assets of Russian oligarchs. Sweeney said most of the jets are not registered in Russia.