The AVRORA Callsign Mystery

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
2021-11-10_07-51-55.jpg

There's an apparent aricraft with the callsign "AVRORA" that shows up on FlightRadar24. It's the subject of several threads on Reddit, but nobody seems to have figured out what it is.

The track initially looks like a standard trans-pacific route, but it's not. There's only two segments, one in the Arizona desert, and one off the coast of the Russian Kamchatka peninsula. There's no data for the path in-between (which is just an interpolated great circle).

The Kamchatka location just shows up as occasional sporadic results, over several days, with very low air speed. 2021-11-10_07-58-54.jpg

The Arizona segment is very different, a steep slope and several tight turns of a 0.5 mile diameter circle at about 26 knots
2021-11-10_08-01-13.jpg
(These tracks are extracted from the raw JSON files using a custom Python script)

What could this be? I think there's a few options, in no great order
  1. ADS-B Spoofing - i.e. not a real object, but some deliberate attempt to fake a track
  2. ADS-B Glitches - perhaps some test that's leaking noise, maybe specific to FR24
  3. An experimental aircraft - something like a long range solar-powered surveillance drone
  4. Two aircraft - One in Arizona, one off Kamchatka
  5. Some combination, or something else.
The Arizona track looks plausible like an actual aircraft. Something that was suggested is Boeing's Aurora Odysseus aircraft, a high-altitude pseudo-satellite that's a flying solar-powered wing.
2021-11-10_08-39-24.jpg

That would explain the slow speed in Arizona, but it's not clear if this aircraft even physically is yet capable of flight, let alone across the pacific.

Somewhat in support of this option is the presence of what looks like a 5-mile long, 0.5 mile wide runway close to the Arizona track.
2021-11-10_08-41-28.jpg

Minimal support for the spoofing/testing hypothesis comes from this unsupported post:
Article:
AVRORA mystery solved!
well i was watching a documentary when i saw avrora appearing in it they said it was a test done by a flightradar24 developer i couldn't find a clip tho :
...
'How do aircraft get track'

i think that is what it is called


Testing makes some sense, but then what's with the rather specific Arizona track?
 

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jarlrmai

Senior Member
The Arizona track airfield has a photo taken there on google Earth images,

1636565800918.png

A reverse image search on that photo gives a link to NASA parachute testing for the NASA Orion (in 2018)

https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html

So the airfield is likely used as a NASA testbed probably amidst amongst other things

Here's a video that uses the image

http://spaceref.com/missions-and-pr...-at-nasa---orion-parachute-test-and-more.html

The video references the place as the US Army Proving ground (Yuma, Arizona)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuma_Proving_Ground

Might help with some searching
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
Boeing own a company called Aurora Aero

https://www.aurora.aero/

And they have done demonstrations from this location

https://www.defensenews.com/land/20...lity-to-take-out-small-drone-threats-at-yuma/

WASHINGTON — Three vendors demonstrated capabilities to destroy small drones using low-collateral effects interceptors at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, earlier this month as part of a bigger Pentagon effort to develop enduring systems capable of combating the growing and evolving threat, an Army official told Defense News in an April 15 interview.

Boeing-owned Aurora Flight Sciences, Elta North America and Xtend were each evaluated against different threat scenarios over the course of a week in April.
 

JFDee

Senior Member.
That's what I thought. It is (and has been) probably many things during the years.

But, yeah, that only multiplies the mystery ...
 
The one off Kamchatka only shows up on FR24 and none of the other sites I checked just now.

FlightRadar24
fr24.jpg


FlightAware
fa.jpg

AirNav RadarBox
rb.jpg

ADS-B Exchange
adsbx.jpg
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
What could this be? I think there's a few options, in no great order
  1. ADS-B Spoofing - i.e. not a real object, but some deliberate attempt to fake a track
  2. ADS-B Glitches - perhaps some test that's leaking noise, maybe specific to FR24
  3. An experimental aircraft - something like a long range solar-powered surveillance drone
  4. Two aircraft - One in Arizona, one off Kamchatka
  5. Some combination, or something else.
So after FR24 suggested the two aircraft I looked at the full track again. The Arizona segment is actually 12 minutes long on 2021-11-04 and is inserted into the Kamchatka track, which also starts on 2021-11-04, with just one data point before Arizona, then the rest on the following five days (to 2021-11-09). This proves that it's two different sources.

The Arizona craft is just something like an experimental aircraft. The Kamchatka source is weird, with just 2-6 pings per day.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Via Twitter:
Article:
https://www.icao.int/NACC/Documents/Meetings/2011/ADSBMLT/Day01-06-VNIIRA-Ekaterina.pdf
AVRORA is a surveillance radar. If you watch aircraft flying by they turn from blue to yellow, meaning they have transitioned from satellite based data to ground based. I suspect the “aircraft” you see is some sort of glitch showing the “corner” of the ground based radar’s range.


I'm not sure the "corner" thing is valid, but it seems likely that the AVRORA callsign comes from this radar system, and then get inherited by other flights that have the same invalid code, and hence you get these long jumps.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Don't consumer drones have ADS-B these days? Any flight path that doesn't commence or terminate at an airport could easily be a drone.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Don't consumer drones have ADS-B these days?
No, some have ADS-B receivers, but not transmitters.

ADS-B is actually limited by the available codes. If drones started using it, then they would run out. I'd imagine that eventually there will be some system that includes drones

Article:
DJI drones like the Mavic Air 2 only use ADS-B In, allowing them to see nearby traditional aircraft without congesting the airwaves by adding additional transmissions.

In fact, the FAA has proposed prohibiting the use of ADS-B Out for most commercial drone operations (those under Part 107) unless the operator has separate permission, out of concern that the potential proliferation of ADS-B Out transmitters on drones may actually have a reverse affect on safety.

“The projected numbers of UAS operations have the potential to saturate available ADS-B frequencies, affecting ADS-B capabilities for manned aircraft and potentially blinding ADS-B ground receivers,” according to the FAA’s December 2019 Proposed Rule on Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
 

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