Those not content with a getting a 2D top-down or 360-degree street level view of a planned route using Google Maps can now enjoy a virtual flight over the route thanks to Google adding a new Helicopter View. The new feature, which currently only works in a full browser and requires the Google Earth plugin, lets users see 3D view, should come in particularly handy for walkers or bike riders looking for a more intuitive view of potentially tiring hills.

To access the 3D aerial view, ensure the Google Earth plugin is installed, then head over to Google Maps, choose "Get directions" and select your mode of transport and input your desired point of origin and destination. Google Maps will then plot out the recommended route as per usual.

Next click on the "3D" play button and the view zooms in to the Helicopter View and follows the recommended route. Users can pause the progress by clicking the pause button in the bottom left of the map window to explore the map by the usual clicking and dragging - or to wait for the image data to download. Users can also jump ahead to any point with a click of a different step in the text directions in the left panel, while switching back to 2D mode is accomplished with pushing the 2D button in the left panel.

So head over to Google Maps, buckle up and enjoy the flight.