“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”
― Carl Sagan, Contact

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADSB) is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked. … It can also be received by other aircraft to provide situational awareness and allow self separation. And It can be received by RTL-SDR very easily:

The ADS-B system has three main components: 1) ground infrastructure, 2) airborne component, and 3) operating procedures.

  • A transmitting subsystem that includes message generation and transmission functions at the source; e.g., aircraft.
  • The transport protocol; e.g., VHF (VDL mode 2 or 4), 1090ES, or 978 MHz UAT.
  • A receiving subsystem that includes message reception and report assembly functions at the receiving destination; e.g., other aircraft, vehicle or ground system.
  • The source of the state vector and other transmitted information as well as user applications are not considered to be part of the ADS-B system

To set up an ADSB air radar you will need four things.

  1. A working RTL-SDR dongle. The R820T or R820T2 tuner is recommended for best performance at 1090 MHz.
  2. A vertically polarized antenna tuned to 1090 MHz.
  3. Software for listening and decoding ADS-B.
  4. Software to graphically display the received aircraft location data.

There are so many great tutorials on this, I chose not to replicate them here, but rather provide a list of a few good ones:

You can view it on your own browser by clicking here VirtualRadar, note that my system has many layers that I have added to show imagery from my Geo stationary Weather Satellite system.

If it is not feeding, I might be doing some work on the system, otherwise, it should run 24/7. It is being fed from a FlightRadar24 Raspberry Pi running FlightRadar24 that I set up.

I then pipe that data from the PI Aware system via TCP into my Virtual Radar System, which then plots and shows the aircraft that my antenna system can pick up. I also share the data with Flight Radar 24

Best of all, almost all of this software is open-source, which usually means free!