Adventures in ADS-B

I find myself using websites like Flight Aware and Flight Radar 24 quite a bit. Whether I’m tracking a flight with friends/family on board, just checking to see what big quad-jet is flying overhead, or keeping tabs on the occasional ‘unicorn’ squawking ADS-B I usually find myself wishing I had a subscription.

Snap from FlightRadar24.com based off ADS-B data.
Snap from FlightRadar24.com based off ADS-B data.

Both sites offer free subscriptions if you’re willing to contribute ADS-B data to their databases. To do this, you need an antenna, and some way to get the ADS-B data from the antenna to the internet. The most common being a RTL-2832 USB dongle, and a Raspberry Pi. You can request they send you a kit (I doubt I’d qualify as I live in an area that already has decent ADS-B coverage), you can purchase a prepackaged kit, or you can piece everything together and save a couple of bucks. Guess which option I chose…

I see this as a win-win as it’s a combination of three of my hobbies (ham radio, electronics, and aviation). Not to mention that I’ve always wanted to tinker with a Pi.

I placed an order for the Pi, SD card, power adapter, and a second RTL-2832 dongle today. Current plans are to build an antenna and mount everything remotely as close to the antenna as possible.

I’ll run 5v power outside for the Pi and hopefully still have a strong enough WiFi signal to avoid running a patch cable outside as well. Eventually I’d love to track power consumption of the Pi and piece together a solar setup (small panel and battery) so that the unit is entirely sealed and stand-alone….but we’ll save that project for the future.

This project will also be forcing me to re-mount my 2m HAM antenna since the same mount will most likely be used to attach the 1090mhz antenna for the Pi. The antenna has been down since we re-roofed the house.

More to come soon!