ADS-B Virtual Radar RTL-SDR Tutorial in the ARRL QST Magazine

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) a.k.a The American National Association for Amateur Radio has put online a freely available ADS-B tutorial featured in their monthly QST magazine, written by Robert Nichols, W9RAN. The tutorial focuses on using an R820T RTL-SDR dongle to receive ADS-B signals, and then using computer software to decode the signals and create a virtual aircraft radar.

ADS-B is a protocol used by most modern aircraft to broadcast their position and altitude which is determined via GPS. ADS-B is intended to supplement and eventually replace traditional radar.

In this ADS-B tutorial, they show how to create a weatherproofed 1090 MHz collinear antenna from RG-6/U coax and PVC pipe and how to use the ADSB# and virtual radar server software to decode and visualize aircraft positions, like a radar.

If interested, we also have an ADS-B virtual radar tutorial that can be found here.

ADS-B Virtual Air Radar Tutorial by the ARRL
ADS-B Virtual Air Radar Tutorial by the ARRL


  1. John G. Olson, W9JGO

    I recently bought a DV dongle and followed W9RAN’s Jan. 2013 QST article to get it working as a radio receiver. Then, following his Jan. 2014 QST article, with a couple of hitches, got the Virtual Radar working. I am surprised to see aircraft at least 40 miles away showing up on the map. This is with just the little antenna that came with the dongle, which I popped onto a cookie tin lid for a ground plane. Demo’d both at the weekly “ham” breakfast… Great fun!

  2. Rob T.

    Your title is incorrect. The article you are linking to is by Robert Nichols, W9RAN. It isn’t “by” the ARRL, it is just published in the ARRL’s QST magazine. A year ago, he also contributed an article to QST on getting started with RTL-SDR, and published the designs for an up-converter, (the RANvertner which I think he was also selling as a kit.

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