The rtl_acars console based ACARS decoder which is based on rtl_fm has been updated by a new author, gat3way on Reddit. The new updates include decoder sensitivity improvements and the following:

  • Multiple frequencies scanning is now supported (by providing multiple -f arguments at command line and -l ). Since there is no audio output and it’s hard to determine right squelch level, a squelch debug option (-r) is implemented. Use it to experiment with squelch value, it’s simple: good squelch values flood stdout with “hopping freq!” messages yet avoid too high squelch levels. In general, values between 20-30 work good with my setup (big city, lots of radio interference, NOAA turnstile which gives -3db due to rhcp polarization).
  • Aircraft and airline databases now supported (using the acarsdec builtin ones). DBs are text files using simple format, so you may easily update them. I would very much appreciate your help to keep that up-to-date.
  • Certain improvements in frequency hopping code as compared to rtl_fm, but don’t expect wonders, it takes time to retune so data loss is not avoidable especially if you provide lots of frequencies to scan or huge ranges.
  • A simple Makefile to make it simpler 🙂

In the future gat3way hopes to support the decoding of multiple ACARS channels as well. The updated rtl_acars software can be downloaded from github here.

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