Category: Airband

Tracking Company Jets with ADS-B to Give an Edge to Hedge Fund Investors

Financial news site Bloomberg recently ran an article about how hedge fund managers are using ADS-B to track private company aircraft in order to help predict the next megadeal between companies. They explain with an example:

In April, a stock research firm told clients that a Gulfstream V owned by Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. had been spotted at an Omaha airport. The immediate speculation was that Occidental executives were negotiating with Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to get financial help in their $38 billion offer for rival Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Two days later, Buffett announced a $10 billion investment in Occidental.

There’s some evidence that aircraft-tracking can be used to get an early read on corporate news. A 2018 paper from security researchers at the University of Oxford and Switzerland’s federal Science and Technology department, tracked aircraft from three dozen public companies and identified seven instances of mergers-and-acquisitions activity. “It probably shouldn’t be your prime source of investing information, but as a feeder, as an alert of something else what might be going on, that’s where this work might be useful,” says Matthew Smith, a researcher at Oxford’s computer science department and one of the authors.

"Alternative data" collection firms like Quandl Inc. have services like "corporate aviation intelligence", where they use ADS-B data to keep tabs on private aircraft, then sell their data on to hedge funds and other investors who are hoping to gain an edge in the stock market.

Popular flight tracking sites that aggregate ADS-B data like FlightAware and FlightRadar24 censor data from private jets on their public maps upon the request of the owner, but it's not known if they continue to sell private jet data on to other parties. ADS-B Exchange is one ADS-B aggregator that promises to never censor flights, however the data is only free for non-commercial use. The value from using companies like Quandl is that they probably have a much more accurate database of who each private jet belongs to.

The Bloomberg article also mentions another use case for tracking private flights, which is  tracking the movements of known dictators via their private jets. We previously posted an article about this too. We've also in the past seen ADS-B data used to track world leaders, and help United Nations advisers track flights suspected of violating an arms embargo.

ADS-B data is typically collected these days with a low cost SDR like the RTL-SDR. We have a tutorial on setting up your own ADS-B home tracker here.

Features of Quandl Inc's Corporate Aviation Intelligence Service.
Features of Quandl Inc's Corporate Aviation Intelligence Service.

New Products in Store: RadarBox ADS-B Bundle Including Outdoor ADS-B Antenna and ADS-B Optimized RTL-SDR Dongle

A while back we posted about flight tracking company RadarBox.com who had launched their 1090 MHz ADS-B optimized RTL-SDR. Like other ADS-B optimized RTL-SDR's, the dongle contains a 1090 MHz filter and a low noise amplifier that reduces the noise figure, resulting in better SNR, and thus more planes spotted at further distances.

We spoke with RadarBox and asked if they could provide a low cost RTL-SDR + Antenna bundle for us. That bundle is now available in our store for $49.95 + shipping. Shipping takes about 2-3 weeks and costs between $10 - $25 depending on your country. Shipping costs will automatically added to the cart on checkout (please ignore other shipping options and choose free shipping unless you have other items in the cart). Please note that due to the larger size this will be shipped in a cylindrical package from a separate Chinese warehouse, and tracking info will come a few days later in a separate email.

The bundle includes:

  • 1x RadarBox ADS-B 1090 MHz SMA Outdoor Antenna with mounting brackets
  • 1x RadarBox ADS-B Optimized 1090 MHz RTL-SDR

The antenna has 7 dBi gain, 50 (+-5) Ohm impedance, and is made from fiberglass and aluminum. It is fully waterproof and outdoor rated. This is a great set at a great price to get started tracking planes with ADS-B.

To purchase, please click the Add to Cart button below or visit our store at www.rtl-sdr.com/store. Please note we only have limited stock of this product! NOTE: The first shipment of this product will be on July 2nd.

Add to cart
RadarBox Bundle: Includes 1x Outdoor ADS-B Antenna, 1x ADS-B Optimized RTL-SDR
RadarBox Bundle: Includes 1x Outdoor ADS-B Antenna, 1x ADS-B Optimized RTL-SDR

 

Stratux 1090 MHz + 978 MHz Diplexer Now Available

Recently the company Stratux released a new ADS-B/UAT diplexer PCB. This is useful if you have a single antenna and want to feed two RTL-SDR dongles, with one receiving 1090 MHZ ADS-B and the second receiving 978 MHz UAT. The filter consists of a splitter and two SAW filters.

ADS-B is short for Automatic Dependant Surveillance Broadcast and is used to help track aircraft in the sky. It is transmit at 1090 MHz and the signal contains aircraft data such as the location, speed, altitude and aircraft call sign. ADS-B is utilized worldwide.

UAT is short for Universal Access Tranceiver and is transmit at 978 MHz. Like ADS-B it is used to keep track of aircraft, however UAT is only available in the USA and only for aircraft that fly below 18,000ft. It is a little cheaper and unlike ADS-B, UAT transmissions can also contain weather and traffic data.

US aircraft owners/operators that fly below 18,000ft can choose to install either UAT or ADS-B transmitters in their aircraft, so in the US a complete monitoring solution needs to monitor both 1090 MHz and 978 MHz.

The Stratux Diplexer board is currently available on Amazon for $24.99.

Stratux Diplexer for 1090 MHz ADS-B and 978 MHz UAT.
Stratux Diplexer for 1090 MHz ADS-B and 978 MHz UAT.

Demonstrating HFDL Reception with a Cloud-IQ SDR and MultiPSK

Over on YouTube user Shortwave Bavaria has uploaded a video that demonstrates HFDL reception. HFDL is short for High Frequency Data Link and is a signal used by aircraft to communicate short messages with ground stations over long distances. It is often used in place of VHF ACARS when flying over oceans.

In his video Shortwave Bavaria uses a 26.5m end fed wire, and a Cloud-IQ SDR. But we note that any HF capable SDR can be used to receive HFDL. SDR-Console V3 is used as the receiver, and MultiPSK Professional edition as the decoder. Many HFDL messages contain location data, so aircraft can be plotted on a map and he demonstrates this using Google Earth. In the video he notes how amazing it is that flights from across the globe can be received with his set up.

Amazing Decoding HFDL reception with SDR over central Europe

Spoofing Aircraft Instrument Landing Systems with an SDR

Recently Arstechnica ran an in depth story about how a $600 USRP software defined radio could be used to trick an aircraft that is making use of the Instrument Landing System (ILS). ILS is a radio based system that has been used as far back as 1938 and earlier. It's a very simple system consisting of an array of transmitter antennas at the end of a runway and a radio receiver in the aircraft. Depending on the horizontal and vertical position of the aircraft, the ILS system can help the pilot to center the aircraft on the runway, and descend at the correct rate. Although it is an old technology, it is still in use to this day as a key instrument to help pilots land especially when optical visibility is poor such as at night or during bad weather/fog.

Researchers from Northeastern University in Boston have pointed out in their latest research that due to their age, ILS systems are inherently insecure and can easily be spoofed by anyone with a TX capable radio. Such a spoofing attack could be used to cause a plane to land incorrectly. In the past ILS failures involving distorted signals have already caused near catastrophic incidents.

However, to carry out the attack the attacker would require a fairly strong power amplifier and directional antenna lined up with the runway. Also as most airports monitor for interference the attack would probably be discovered. They write that the attack could also be carried out from within the aircraft, but the requirements for a strong signal and thus large power amplifier and directional antenna would still be required, making the operation too suspicious to carry out onboard.

Wireless Attacks on Aircraft Landing Systems

Tracking Dictators Around the World with ADS-B Data

Over on Reddit freelance investigative journalist Emmanuel Freudenhal has put up a very interesting post about how he is using ADS-B tracking to keep an eye on the travel habits of dictators around the world. If you were unaware, ADS-B is a signal transmitted by aircraft which contains aircraft ID info, and data such as speed, altitude and GPS location. Websites like ADS-B Exchange aggregate ADS-B data from volunteer ground stations that are running (mostly) RTL-SDR dongles. Emmanuel notes that by watching the movements of aircraft registered to dictators, it is possible to keep an eye on their travel habits.

One story that Emmanuel has written using this data is a piece on Paul Biya, Cameroon's president. His article discusses how Paul Biya is often seen in Geneva Switzerland, away on private visits. In a comment, Emmanuel notes that since his story ran, Paul Biya has almost stopped travelling to Switzerland.

Emmanuel has also been running a Twitter bot that uses ADS-B data to automatically tweet when a dictator aircraft is detected at Geneva airport. A list of known dictator aircraft is kept on a publicly accessible Excel file.

Now he is hoping to expand his tracking operation, and is asking for more people to feed the ADS-B Exchange aggregation website. ADS-B Exchange is the site recommend to feed because it is the only ADS-B aggregation website that does not censor any aircraft. Other aggregation sites such as Flightradar24 and FlightAware have come under scrutiny in the past for their willingness to upon request censor and block the tracking of military/political aircraft and private jets owned by several companies. In particular several aircraft owned by dictators are reportedly censored. However, the counter argument is that not censoring aircraft may result in ADS-B tracking eventually being made illegal, or that costly legal suites may be brought against ADS-B aggregation companies.

On the Reddit post Emmanuel writes:

I'm a freelance investigative journalist (www.emmanuel-freudenthal.com / @emmanuelfreuden). I'm getting into SDR/ADSB and very glad I found this group because I need your help to track aircrafts!

With a colleague, we started a project to look into the travels of dictators around the world. It's an evolution of a Twitter bot (https://twitter.com/GVA_Watcher) started a few years ago. This bot tweets every time an aircraft owned by a dictatorship lands or takes off at the Geneva airport, Switzerland. And dictators visit Geneva, a lot. There's secretive banks and good healthcare, enjoyed by Algeria's departing president or Cameroon's president Paul Biya.

We want to expand this project to all of the world's airports. See our place-holding website: https://dictatoralert.org(which will get expanded soonish). To do so, we've partnered with ADSB-Exchange, which as you probably know, is the only website that doesn't censor flights. Usually the planes owned/chartered by dictatorships don't show up on flightaware or flightradar24 (anyone can asked to be removed). Some planes also don't share their GPS coordinates (e.g. Mode S) and so they don't show up.

In addition to the Dictator Alerts, we'll also use the data to do investigations into dictatorships, human rights violation and corruption.

The idea is to allow everyone to keep tabs, so the data will be available publicly, via Twitter bots and on a dedicated website (with e.g. a page per dictatorship and per airport).

To succeed, we need a lot more antennas! So, it'd be great if you could feed ADSB-Exchange. You can do that in addition to feeding other services. See how to do it here: https://www.adsbexchange.com/how-to-feed/ If you want to feed, please contact me on [email protected], my twitter DM are open. It's quite important that you contact me before feeding, so that we also capture aircrafts that don't share their GPS coordinates.

That also means, you'll be able to see ALL of the data that you're collecting online.

What do you think? Would you be keen to participate? Any questions?

Your feedback is very welcome, i'm still learning!

Best,

Emmanuel

Dictator Alert. A Twitter bot reporting on dictator movements via ADS-B data. dictatoralert.org
Dictator Alert. A Twitter bot reporting on dictator movements via ADS-B data. dictatoralert.org

Other stories of interest: A similar story we ran last year was about tracking police and military aircraft at the G7 summit with an RTL-SDR, and three years ago we ran a story about tracking World Economic Forum Attendees with an RTL-SDR.

SignalsEverywhere: ADS-B Aircraft Tracking with RTL-SDR, dump1090 and Virtual Radar Server

Over on his YouTube channel Corrosive from the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel has uploaded a tutorial that shows how to set up ADS-B aircraft tracking with an RTL-SDR, dump1090 and Virtual Radar Server. The decoder software is dump1090 which is a multiplatform command line tool, and Virtual Radar Server is a Windows and Linux compatible program that is used to display the data on Google maps.

ADS-B is used as a more accurate and modern replacement for traditional aircraft radar. Instead of relying on radar reflections, ADS-B simply transmits a radio signal containing plane data such as GPS location, speed, and identification codes. Other aircraft can use this data for collision avoidance, and ground control use it for traffic management. Setting up your own RTL-SDR based ADS-B receiver allows you to see and track on a map almost all the aircraft currently flying in your area.

ADS-B Receiver With RTL SDR | Tracking Aircraft In Real-time!

A Portable RTL-SDR Based ADS-B Receiver with Display and 3D Printed Enclosure

Over on Hackaday.io user nathan.matsuda has written about his RTL-SDR based hand held ADS-B aircraft receiver with display and 3D printed enclosure.

His initial idea was to create a flexible and open portable SDR device, however keeping the device open and built for general use meant increased complexity which quickly slowed his progress. Instead [Nathan] decided to focus on just ADS-B for his portable device as living near an airport he’d been interested in aircraft tracking since his first SDR arrived.

The device consists of a Raspberry Zero, RTL-SDR, 3.5″ IPS LCD and a battery pack for portability. For software he uses dump1090 with some custom code for the map plotting. Together with a 3D printed case and some buttons, the result is a very professional looking portable aircraft tracking device.

Hopefully Nathan will continue updating his project page so that others may replicate it on their own.

Raspberry Pi Zero and RTL-SDR Portable ADS-B Receiver
Raspberry Pi Zero and RTL-SDR Portable ADS-B Receiver