using RTL-SDR onboard an aircraft

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using RTL-SDR onboard an aircraft

Post by Radiohead » Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:26 am

Hello there, I am fairly new here, so I hope I post this question in the right thread :|

I'm a plane spotter, I love taking photo of planes, taking videos of it, and listening to pilot's conversation. I'm currently using a modified FM radio to listen to the ATC. I'm planning to buy RTL-SDR dongle some time in the near future to replace my current cheap FM radio.

Since I love spotting and listening to ATC, I've been wondering. Is it safe to use RTL-SDR during flight?

If it is, then I'm planning on using it to listen and record the audio conversation between my flight and the controllers.

Whenever I'm on a flight, I almost, always record wing view footage during takeoff and landing, so I am planning on combining the recorded atc conversation with the footage.

So, again, I want to know. Will I be in trouble, or cause trouble, by using RTL-SDR during flight, to listen to the conversation between ATC and pilots?

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Re: using RTL-SDR onboard an aircraft

Post by rtlsdrblog » Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:42 am

It should be safe, but to be honest I would really advise against doing so.

Firstly, all radio's even RX only radios will emit some interference from the crystal, and while unlikely it could interfere with the planes radios.

The main reason against it though is that if someone see's you fiddling with an antenna, playing with wires, or see's and recognises a spectrum analyser screen on your PC, then people may start to get worried and panic, especially with today's security environment.

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Re: using RTL-SDR onboard an aircraft

Post by 9a4qv » Thu Apr 07, 2016 10:38 pm

Why not taking another approach, when you board the aircraft try to ask the chief steward and explain what you are doing/planing to do. If there is relaxed crew/pilot and enough time, they may even show you the pilot cabin and you can have a chat with them explaining what your hobby is about.

What you try to do is not illegal and today many flights does not have the problems even with the cell phone not switched off.
Of course, such activity may trigger the passengers just because they are not educated enough and blinded with the security treats and all kind of BS.
At the end, the air traffic is still the safer mean of passenger transport. If they do not believe to airport security then why they are flying at all ?

I have so many flight hours in the plains and helicopters and all together, not so many problems. I use to even bring my 100W transceiver in my cabin luggage and never got the problem. I do remember just few problems, I tried to board the plane with the vertical antenna and radials :-) in my hand going home from some HAM radio exhibition from Germany. They did not allow me to do that as they treat the spikes as a cold weapon. I told them then that they can place the weapon in the pilot cabin but they refuse it.
At the end, I send the antenna in the luggage compartment, but I told them that the antenna has the high value and they believe it as there was still the price in Yen on it. As this was something like 88.000 Yens, they did not know how much is that :-) At the end the antenna was unloaded first from the plane on arrival as VIP luggage :lol:

The second not so pleasant situation was at the end of Gadafi era in Libya. As a frequent flyer for three years going from Europe to Libya and back I encourage my self to bring the coaxial cable to Libya. That time, all the comms. were strictly controlled and the only mean of communication was the V-sat but still going through the Libyan switch. During the summer time we manage to get the Italian analog cell phone signals (Etacs-Motorola) from the islands of Lampedusa. This was possible only during the south wind and the calm see when a sea duct radio layer was created on a certain high from the sea. The signals were just on the edge so I design and build the yagi antenna using the welding roads and the broom stick as the boom. We need the coax, and finding one in Libya was not easy/safe. So I decided to bring one, with the crimped connectors, ready for use.
Of course, they lock me on the airport and interrogate properly :-) looking where I hide the antenna. I said I do not have antenna, but the were smart enough to ask, what do I need the coax for if I do not have the antenna :-)
Quickly, I have to find a good lie and my brain start to run (multitasking mode :-) I said that the coax is for the 10-10 computer network :?
I said they can keep the coax if they do not believe me, and I left the coax running from the airport followed by 3 of security guys. :shock:
I think, there should be somewhere on the web the photo of that antenna still... (WA5VJB cheap yagi 915mhz)

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Re: using RTL-SDR onboard an aircraft

Post by Radiohead » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:53 pm

Thank you guys, for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

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