A High Performance RTL-SDR ADS-B Receiver Build Guide

ADS-B Setup in an outdoor enclosure. Includes FlightAware ADS-B Antenna, FlightAware RTL-SDR Dongle, Raspberry Pi, POE Splitter.
ADS-B Setup in an outdoor enclosure. Includes FlightAware ADS-B Antenna, FlightAware RTL-SDR Dongle, Raspberry Pi, POE Splitter.

Over on Imgur and Reddit user Mavericknos has uploaded a very nice pictorial guide where he shows how he's built a high performance RTL-SDR based ADS-B receiver that can be mounted outside in a waterproof enclosure.

He uses a FlightAware dongle, which is an RTL-SDR optimized for best ADS-B reception when placed directly at the mast/antenna. For an antenna he uses the FlightAware ADS-B antenna, which we've reviewed in the past and found to be one of the best value ADS-B antennas available on the market. To process the data, a Raspberry Pi is used and it is powered via power over Ethernet (POE). If you didn't already know, power over Ethernet (not to be confused with Ethernet over powerline) is simply running power through unused wires inside an Ethernet cable. It is a convenient method of powering remote devices and giving them a network connection at the same time. The whole package is enclosed in a waterproof case, and the antenna attached to the top.

Putting the RTL-SDR and computing device at the antenna removes any loss from long coax runs, and the POE connection provides a tidy cabling scheme. The FlightAware dongle is a good choice for mounting directly at the mast or antenna because it has a built in low noise figure LNA. If using coax cabling instead, and keeping the RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi inside, then it would be better to mount an LNA at the mast and power it through the coax via a bias tee.

All components in the build.
All components in the build.


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Larry Babcock

Sounds like a good plan, any updates?


Any difficulties with heat dissipation?


Looks very interesting, I suspect the performance would benefit greatly from eliminating the long feed routed near the power and digital components by instead mounting the antenna off center to allow the dongle to directly connect to it; the pi would maybe have to tile a little more sideways for the dongle to be fixed there but it seems like it would work. And a metal case for the pi, with a metal case for the whole enclosure might help too.


Lightning protection?

A nearby strike here took out a modem and the Raspberry Pi running it. I was fortunate that the damage stopped there and did not extend to the LAN. The replacement is using the Pi3’s WiFi to connect to the LAN. And that wasn’t even a direct hit.

I’d be pretty nervous about having an external antenna in southern FL without proper grounding.


I’m using little different vision of ADS-B Receiver.
Orange Pi Zero + stock blue DVB-T receiver from China (R820T2) + PoE with Step-Down Coverter + dump1090-mutability + DIY Collinear Antenna.

Morgan Flint

I’ve also thought of something like that but I live in an apartment building and it’s complicated to lay a cable from my house to the roof. So I think a good solution would be to use the power cables to the air conditioning unit already there with a PLC link