How 19-Year-old student Tracked Elon Musk’s Private Jet

A 19-year-old college student from Florida recently caused the richest person in the world Elon Musk a headache after he created a Twitter bot to track his private jet. Elon Musk offered the student a money to shut down the program and the student countered offered but Musk didn’t respond after that.

Jack Sweeney, a freshman college student in University of Central Florida created a Twitter Bot named @ElonJet to track Elon Musk’s private jet. Unlike other billionaires, Musk has only one private jet which makes it easier for Jack Sweeney to track him. Elon Musk considered this a security risk and offered the student $5,000 to shut down the program but the student countered offer and ask for $50,000 plus internship. Since then, Musk didn’t respond.

The @ElonJet source code is uploaded on Github. It is written in Python and it uses OpenSky Network API to track the unique transponder of the plane. This API is free and made possible by network of people who relay data to the system from all over the world and take note that flight tracking is completely legal. There are also many different apps that rely on this data. In Sweeney’s program, he tracks the plane’s altitude and position every few minutes and there is an algorithm that checks for the changes in the previous position and the current position to determine a landing and takeoff event. When a takeoff or landing event occurs, it uses the Google Map static API or take a screenshot with a browser to generate an image of the current location of the plane and then it uses Twitter and Discord APIs to post that content on Twitter.

Currently, @ElonJet has 290K twitter followers. Sweeney has revealed that he is launching Ground Control, a website which will monitor the flight activity of high-profile business figures, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.


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