Starting from Scratch Tracking Aircraft With ADSB Dongles

piadsb

To track aircraft you’ll need a receiver to pick up the signals that the aircraft transmit on 1090 MHz. There are dedicated ADSB receivers already such as a ModeS Beast or a Kinetic SBS but there are some surprisingly inexpensive options.

To put together a complete package you’ll need four elements:

  • a dongle
  • an aerial
  • a computer
  • the appropriate software

The Dongle

dongle

 

Some time ago some clever folks noticed that certain digital TV dongles (the kind intended to allow you to watch TV on your laptop) could be tuned way higher than intended so that they could pick up aircraft ADSB transmissions.  However, not all models have this ability – they need to contain a specific chipset.

These have gone through a number of variations now with the cheapest ones costing around £10 such as this one on Amazon.  FlightAware recently introduced an improved version which has a built-in amplifier for a few pounds more which can also be ordered from Amazon (for best results this one needs to be used with a very short aerial cable otherwi

antenna

se you’ll just amplify the noise and the signal in the cable).

 

An 1090 MHz ADSB Aerial

 

Of course the receiver is only as good as the aerial that feeds it and the aerial supplied with the dongle (affectionately known as the twiglet) is designed to receive powerful television signals at 600-800 MHz not the very low power ADSB signals at 1090 MHz.  Not surprisingly performance with the standard aerial is less than stellar so a decent aerial is a must and for best results it should be mounted as high as possible.

Phil from 360radar makes and sells his own 1090 MHz aerials and they are in use by over 100 contributors to 360Radar now.  They are supplied with the cable that you need and any connectors.  Performance is excellent and they are very inexpensive.  More details can be found here.

Also has an alternative, the well respected Darren Sheils of Broadsword Antennas known for his scanner and ham antennas has started to make a 1090mhz 8 element coaxial collinear ADS-B ANTENNA available through Facebook, eBay or via email. More details can be found here.

A computer (Windows, Linux or Raspberry Pi)

The dongle needs to be plugged into a computer in order to receive data and upload it to our servers.  Whilst a Windows PC is the main choice for most users they aren’t necessarily the best solution.  Desktop computers will consume a far amount of electricity of the course of a year so if this is an issue then you may want to consider using a Raspberry Pi computer instead.  These are inexpensive (costing around £50) which is about the same as the amount of electricity that a desktop computer would use in a year.

Another advantage of the Raspberry Pi is its small size – as they are roughly the size of a packet of cigarettes they can be tucked up out of site close to the aerial.  This is ideal if your plan on putting the aerial on your roof or in your attic.

Software

dump1090

The final part of the system is the software.  All of the software is free and can be downloaded from the internet and is available for Windows and Raspberry Pi systems.  It can also be compiled for different versions of Linux.  This website discusses serveral ways to receive the adsb broadcast signals. All programs start with a form of dump1090 or dump1090 mutability, there are several forks of this but essential do the same thing. Dump1090 is one of the most popular ADS-B decoders that is used together with the RTL-SDR dongle. ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependant Surveillance Broadcast and is a system used by aircraft that broadcasts their GPS positions.

Dump1090 Official Malcom Robb Github Repo

https://github.com/MalcolmRobb/dump1090

Dump1090 For Windows Download

As a minimum, download the two files – dump1090.exe and dump1090.bat –  Download from this location

or below:

dump1090-win.1.10.3010.14.zip (10 downloads)

Check out the other tutorials on installing and running dump1090 on windows here or raspberry pi here.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: