FlightAware is a company that specializes in distributed ADS-B aggregation, in order to produce real time maps and information about what aircraft are in the air. In 2021 FlightAware was acquired by Collins Aerospace, which is a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, a large US aerospace and defense contractor.
Most of the data that FlightAware obtains comes from volunteers all around the world running an RTL-SDR dongles on their Raspberry Pi based image. The dongles receive the ADS-B 1090 MHz broadcasts from aircraft which contain information about the aircraft including GPS location.
Back in 2016 they released the FlightAware ProStick, which is an ADS-B optimized RTL-SDR with onboard 1090 MHz LNA. Later in 2017 they released the Prostick Plus which improved performance in high interference areas due to the addition of a 1090 MHz SAW filter.
Their post goes into more detail about their products, and note that they are currently designing a new Prostick Plus with filter placed before the LNA instead of after. They also discuss how they are looking into higher end 12-bit ADCs for their receiver hardware, and at creating a dual channel receiver for the 978 MHz UAT band as well. They then go on to discuss the software architecture behind the ADS-B decoder they use.
Thank you to Wayne Campbell for submitting news about the release of the latest 0.5.0 iteration of his RTL-SDR compatible 'rsadsb' software package that plots ADS-B aircraft positions on a terminal based display. Wayne has also created a blog post describing how to set up a Raspberry Pi based portable ADS-B setup with his software.
The package consists of two separate programs 'dump1090_rs' and 'radar' (aka adsb_deku). The dump1090_rs program is a rust implementation of the dump1090 ADS-B decoder and 'radar' is the terminal based map. A quickstart guide for setting up both programs is also available.
The software can run on a Raspberry Pi and works well displayed on a portable touchscreen. It appears that the terminal display is very responsive with zoom controls for the radar display, a coverage map, and a tidy list of all detected aircraft.
If you're interested in terminal based displays, we've posted about a similar terminal based ADS-B plotter called 'coole-radar' in the past, as well as a terminal based spectrum analyzer display called retrogram.
ADSB Flight Tracker is an Android App that allows you to display ADS-B flight data in either 2D or 3D. It works either with data shared from others over the internet via aggregation sites like adsbexchange.com, or via your own home ADS-B receiver data coming from an RTL-SDR and dump1090 server on your home network. You can also directly connect to an RTL-SDR that is running on your phone and this will allow you to get data faster with less lag. Using data shared by others from the internet could have a delay of a few seconds.
In order to keep using the 3D and RTL-SDR features you'll need to unlock them for a small in-app purchase of $2 for each feature. Initially you get about 30 minutes trial time however.
Some interesting 3D videos were also recently posted to the apps Twitter page @ADSBFlightTrkr.
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.
Most people already know about ADS-B aircraft tracking, but few know about FLARM (FLight AlaRM). FLARM is a low cost and low power consumption ADS-B alternative which is often used by small aircraft such as gliders and helicopters for collision avoidance. It is used all over the world, and is especially popular in Europe, however it is almost non-existent within the USA.
Back in 2014 we posted about FLARM reception with the RTL-SDR, and also about the Open Glider Network (OGN). The OGN is an online FLARM aggregator that is similar to sites like flightaware.com and flightradar24.com which aggregate ADS-B data.
Łukasz’s tutorial uses an Orange Pi Zero which is a very cheap (~$7 USD) Raspberry Pi embedded computing device. He also uses an RTL-SDR dongle and an antenna tuned to the FLARM frequency of 868 MHz. The tutorial goes over the Linux commands for installing the decoder, calibrating the RTL-SDR and setting up the Open Glider Network feeder.
Remember that FLARM is typically 10-100 times weaker than ADS-B so a good tuned antenna is required, and the OGN recommend building (pdf) a collinear coax antenna tuned to 868 MHz.
A new ADS-B decoder for the SDRplay RSP has recently been released by the SDRplay programmers. The SDRplay is a $149 USD software defined radio with a 0.1 – 2000 MHz range, 12-bit ADC and up to 8 MHz of bandwidth. In a previous review we compared it against the Airspy and HackRF.
The SDRplay team have based their new decoder on the multi-platform compatible dump1090 code, which is an ADS-B decoder that was originally written for the RTL-SDR. The Windows version can be be downloaded from http://www.sdrplay.com/windows.html, and the code for other platforms can be downloaded from https://github.com/SDRplay.
To help with the installation procedure the SDRplay has also provided a manual (pdf) which shows exactly how to download and set up the required ADS-B software on a Windows system. They also write that the software is fairly new and is still being optimized for best performance.
In the future after the software is further optimized we hope to compare the RSP against the RTL-SDR and Airspy on ADS-B reception.
Back in June of 2014 we posted about the released of a new program called RTLSDR-Airband. RTLSDR-Airband is a Windows and Linux compatible command line tool that allows you to simultaneously monitor multiple AM channels per dongle within the same chunk of bandwidth. It is great for monitoring aircraft voice communications and can be used to feed websites like liveatc.net.
Since our post the development of the software has been taken over by a new developer szpajder, who wrote in to us to let us know that he has now updated RTLSDR-Airband to version 2.0.0. The new versions improves performance and support for small embedded platforms such as the Raspberry Pi 2, but the Windows port is now not actively maintained and probably does not work. The full list of changes is shown below:
New libconfig-style config file format
util/convert_cfg: can be used to convert old-style config.txt to the new format
Syslog logging (enabled by default)
Reworked makefiles, added install rule
/dev/vcio is now used to access GPU on Raspberry Pi; creating char_dev no longer necessary
Startup scripts for Debian and Gentoo
Support for auto gain setting
Support for multiple outputs per channel
Support for recording streams to local MP3 files
Support for ARMv7-based platforms other than RPi (eg. Cubieboard)
SonicGoose writes that the reason that many PlanePlotter users are moving away from the simpler GUI based RTL1090 ADS-B decoder is because dump1090 provides better raw data to use for multilateration. Multilateration is a technique supported by PlanePlotter which used data shared from multiple receivers to determine the location of an aircraft, even if that aircraft is not transmitting location information.