Receiving ADS-B Jetliner Traffic with a Simple Paper Clip

Over on YouTube user icholakov has uploaded a new video showing how easy it can be to build a cheap ADS-B antenna out of a simple paper clip and coax connector. Modern aircraft carry an ADS-B transceiver and antenna which broadcasts the current GPS location of the aircraft. This is used for collision avoidance and air traffic control, but anyone with a receiver like an RTL-SDR can also receive and decode these signals, and plot locally received air traffic on Google maps. We have a tutorial for decoding ADS-B signals available here.

In the video Thomas Cholakov (N1SPY) explains the concept behind the antenna design, which is a standard 1/4 wave ground plane cut to the correct dimensions for ADS-B at 1090 MHz. He cuts 5 pieces of the same length, with one piece used as the active whip element, and four pieces used in the ground plane element. The paper clip pieces are then soldered onto a coaxial connector and then the antenna is ready to be used.


  1. Jeff

    In case no one advised you, hold the tip of the soldering iron firmly against the part(s) you want to heat until the parts temperatures exceed the melt-point of your solder. If you individually heat and “wet” the inside barrel walls of the coax connector, and the outside tip of the paperclip with solder, you could drop the wetted end of your clip into the pre-wetted barrel, apply your iron, and the pre-soldered parts will eventually weld together.

    The trick in soldering is having a (preferably adjustable) soldering iron that can put more BTU into a part, than the part can dissipate when applying solder. BTU too low and the parts never get hot enough. BTU too high and you risk cooking your boards and components.

    I like using a good rosin flux separately from rosin core solder as it cleans the target surfaces and acts as a decent heat conductor. Soldering effectively is an art. Just takes practice.

    You probably already know all this but

  2. Robert

    Kudos Kid , It’s nice to see that you are into electronics and radio at that . I have a ten year old boy living at my house and all he does is play video games . You might want to consider becoming a wizard of the black arts of programing also .

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