Building an ESP8266 Based Plane Spotter with an RTL-SDR Feeder

Living near Zurich airport, Daniel Eichorn wanted an easy way to show his house guests what planes are flying near him. Usually he opens up his Flightradar24 app on his phone, but he wanted a more permanent always on display. To do this Daniel has built an ESP8266 based OLED display which automatically displays the ADS-B flight information of aircraft outside his window. The ESP8266 is a very cheap and highly popular WiFi module which can give a microcontroller access to WiFi networks.

Daniel feeds his locally received ADS-B data to using a Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR. While actually feeding ADS-B data with an RTL-SDR is not required to make the ESP8266 module work, this step ensures that he has good local coverage of his area. The ESP8266 module then queries the database via WiFi for information about planes in his area and displays the information on the OLED screen.

In previous posts we also showed how the ESP8266 could be used to transmit data like NTSC TV in a similar way to Rpitx.

ESP8266 + OLED screen displaying ADS-B data.
ESP8266 + OLED screen displaying ADS-B data.
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A little confused by this project. It’s Raspberry-Pi based and he recommends the RPi3 which has built-in wifi. So why are we using an ESP8266?