The Pi Zero is one of the cheapest single board computers available, costing only $5 USD, and the wireless model with WiFi connectivity only costs $10 USD. It is powerful enough with its 1 GHz CPU and 512 MB of RAM to run an RTL-SDR and run several non CPU intensive applications such as ADS-B decoding.
The tutorial starts from the beginning by installing a fresh Raspbian image onto the Pi Zero. He then goes on to show how to install the PiAware tracking and feeding software from flightaware.com. Later in the tutorial he also shows how to collect data straight from the flightaware.com API, and also how to build and control an RGB matrix which can display live flight numbers.
The FlightAware ProStick Plus is an modified RTL-SDR designed specifically for ADS-B reception. Its main defining feature is that it has a built in low noise figure LNA, and a 1090 MHz SAW filter. The LNA reduces the noise figure of the RTL-SDR, improving ADS-B reception and thus increasing the number of messages received and the receivable range of aircraft. The SAW filter helps remove out of band signals which can cause the RTL-SDR to overload if they are particularly strong. The Prostick Plus also comes with a TCXO, and SMA connector.
If you are mainly interested in ADS-B reception, or are looking to set up an ADS-B station then the Prostick Plus is one of the best choices you can make. See our previous review here.
We are now reselling some of FlightAware’s Prostick Plus dongles in our store now. They cost $24.95 USD including free shipping worldwide. We intend to sell them mainly to customers outside of the USA, as FlightAware already sell them officially on Amazon, but we offer free shipping anywhere in the world.
Akos from the radioforeveryone.com blog has recently uploaded some new posts. The first post is a tutorial on setting up a PiAware server with an RTL-SDR. PiAware is the official ADS-B feeder software from FlightAware.com, which is a web service that provides real time tracking of aircraft. Most of the flight data comes from volunteers around the world running a PiAware server with an RTL-SDR, ADS-B antenna and Raspberry Pi. The installation is fairly simple, involves burning an SDcard with the PiAware image, setting up the WiFi and then seeing your receiver online on the PiAware website. From there you can then configure the device further.
Akos from the RTLSDR4Everyone blog has recently uploaded four new articles. The first article reviews the new FlightAware Prostick Plus. The Prostick Plus is an RTL-SDR dongle optimized for ADS-B reception. It contains a LNA and 1090 MHz filter on board the dongle. In his review Akos tests the FlightAware Prostick Plus and compares it against the regular Prostick with external filtering. His results show that the Prostick Plus gets 18.45% more position reports and 5.4% extra max range in his location. His second post continues with the Prostick topic and warns customers to look out for sellers reselling, or relisting the Prostick for much higher ripoff prices.
In his third post Akos reviews our RTL-SDR.com broadcast FM filter and compares it against another similar filter from another seller. His test results show that both filters can improve performace.
Finally in his fourth post Akos writes a tutorial on getting started with Outernet reception. He bought the full Outernet bundle which comes with a battery bank, CHIP single board computer, E4000 with bias tee RTL-SDR, LNA with filter and patch antenna. His post describes what each component is, then shows how to use them to receive Outernet. His results also seemed to show that our V3 dongle significantly outperformed the E4000 dongle at Outernet reception. The V3 received the Outernet signal with a SNR of 6.39 dB vs only 2.58 dB with the E4000.
Back in March of this year we posted about the release of the FlightAware “Pro Stick”. The Pro Stick is FlightAware’s ADS-B optimized RTL-SDR dongle. It uses a low noise figure LNA on the RF front end to reduce the system noise figure, thus improving the SNR at 1090 MHz. Because the added gain of the LNA can easily cause overload problems if there are other strong signals around, FlightAware recommend using one of their 1090 MHz ADS-B filters in front of the dongle to prevent overload.
FlightAware.com is a company that specializes in live air travel tracking. Most of their data comes from volunteers running RTL-SDR ADS-B receivers.
Over on their forums and on Amazon, they announced the device and specs. They wrote:
FlightAware is excited to announce the next evolution of USB SDR sticks for ADS-B reception! The new Pro Stick Plus USB SDR builds on the popular Pro Stick by adding a built-in 1090 MHz bandpass filter. The built-in filter allows for increased performance and range of reception by 10-20% for installations where filtering is beneficial. Areas with moderate RF noise, as is typically experienced in most urban areas, generally benefit from filtering. By integrating the filter into the SDR stick, we are able to reduce the total cost by more than 40% when compared to buying a Pro Stick and an external filter.
Filter: 1,075 MHz to 1,105 MHz pass band with insertion loss of 2.3 dB; 30 dB attenuation on other frequencies
Amp: 19 dB Integrated Amplifier which can increase your ADS-B range 20-100% more compared to dongles from other vendors which can increase range 10-20% over a Pro Stick in environments where filtering is beneficial
Native SMA connector
Supported by PiAware
R820T2 RTL2832U chips
USB powered, 5V @ 300mA
Note that this dongle is only for ADS-B at 1090 MHz, and not for 978 MHz UAT signals, as the filter will cut that frequency out.
Back in April, we did a review of the original Pro Stick. We found its performance on ADS-B reception to be excellent, but only when a filter was used. The low NF LNA theoretically improves the SNR of ADS-B signals by about 7-8 dB, but in reality there is too much gain causing signal overload everywhere, thus making reception impossible without the filter. Rural environments may not need a filter, but in a typical urban or city environment strong FM/TV/GSM/etc signals are abundant and these signals easily overloaded the Pro Stick when no filtering was used. This new Pro Stick Plus dongle completely solves that problem at a low cost with its built in filter.
Remember that if you are using a run of coax cable between the LNA and RTL-SDR, then it is more optimal to use an external LNA, like the LNA4ALL. Only an external LNA mounted near the antenna can help overcome coax, connector, filter and other losses as well as reducing the system noise figure. The FlightAware dongles are the optimal solution when they are mounted as close to the antenna as possible. This is usually the case when running the FlightAware feeder software on a Raspberry Pi.
We hope to soon review the Pro Stick Plus, however we assume it will operate nearly identically to the Pro Stick + FlightAware ADS-B filter combination.
Akos from the RTLSDR4Everyone blog has recently uploaded a review of the FlightAware ADS-B ProStick RTL-SDR dongle. The FlightAware (FA) dongle is a standard RTL-SDR with SMA connector, but with a very low noise figure LNA built into the front end. This low noise figure helps improve the SNR of ADS-B signals, resulting in more decodes and further range. We previously reviewed the FlightAware dongle in our own review available here.
In his post Akos reviews the FA dongle on its use as a general RTL-SDR as well as an ADS-B receiver. His review is initially critical to some of the misinformed advertising claims made by FA. He then goes on to show some noise floor scans and some ADS-B reception comparisons. Finally he shows some modifications that can be made to improve the cooling of the PCB.
He concludes that the FA ProStick works very well on improving ADS-B performance, but that overloading due to the increased gain is common.
Recently FlightAware released a new RTL-SDR dongle sold at zero profit at $16.95 USD. It’s main feature is that it comes with an ADS-B optimized low noise amplifier (LNA) built directly into the dongle. FlightAware.com is a flight tracking service that aims to track aircraft via many volunteer ADS-B contributors around the world who use low cost receivers such as the RTL-SDR. In this post we will review their new dongle and hopefully at the same time provide some basic insights to LNA positioning theory to show in what situations this dongle will work well.
A good LNA has a low noise figure and a high IIP3 value. Here is what these things mean.
The FlightAware team have today announced the release of the “ProStick”, an RTL-SDR dongle that they write has been modified for improved ADS-B reception. The new FlightAware RTL-SDR’s main defining feature is that it comes with a built in low noise amplifier (LNA) on the front end. The built in LNA is optimized for the ADS-B frequency of 1090 MHz and has 19 dB of gain with a 0.4 dB noise figure and an OIP3 of +39dB. They claim that the new unit will give a 20-100% performance boost in terms of range for Mode S reception when compared to a standard RTL-SDR.
As the increased gain and amplifier non-linearities can cause overload and intermodulation to more easily occur, the FlightAware team stresses that you must use the new device with a 1090 MHz filter, such as their FlightAware filter. In a previous post we reviewed the FlightAware filter and antenna and found that they performed very well and are great value for money.
So far we haven’t seen any circuit photos or news about which LNA chip has been used, but we intend buy a unit and do a review when it arrives.
One criticism about this unit that we can already see is that it should be understood that good RF design teaches us to always place the LNA as close to the antenna as possible to overcome cable loss and keep the noise figure low. Placing the LNA at the antenna vs at the receiver makes a huge difference in performance, depending on how long and lossy your coax cable run is. Furthermore, integrating an LNA into the receiver ruins the system for optimal performance with an LNA placed by the antenna due to the reduced linearity caused by the additional internal LNA. The post at http://ava.upuaut.net/?p=836 explains optimal LNA placement very well. We think that perhaps selling an external LNA and bias tee module would have been a significantly better idea to optimize ADS-B reception. However, the additional LNA should help to reduce the noise figure of the dongle by a few dBs which will result in improved ADS-B reception as long as signal saturation does not occur.