I recently purchased a Raspberry PI2 CanaKit from Amazon. My goal is to use it with Ham Radio, but to get a quick project going I set it up as a ADS-B flight tracker.
For those who don’t know, ADS-B stands for Automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast, and is used by airplanes to send out a broadcast message on 1090 MHz of their positions, flight number, altitude, and speed. The technology is utilized by air traffic controllers as a secondary way to track flights besides radar tracking.
This project took me about half an hour to setup and is still running. I’ll go over the setup and items needed to get this going. It costs less than $100 bucks to do all of this.
- Raspberry Pi
- NooElec SDR Receiver
- Piaware software – FlightAware.com
- Setup an account with FlightAware.com
It is extremely easy to get this going. Flightaware.com, a flight status tracking website, provides all the steps and information needed to create your Piaware device. Basically you download the Piaware software. Install it on your microSD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi. From there, hook up you NooElec receiver and antenna (it is best to have an outside antenna if possible or one with little obstructions). Cable up your Ethernet cable and then power on the Raspberry Pi. Once on you can register the device with your FlightAware.com account. You can also browse locally to your Raspberry Pi an see the flights as they pass near you. Below is a screen shot of one I took tonight.
If you click on the Flightaware link next to the flight number, it will bring up the FAA logged route for this aircraft.
Being close to a military base, I see a lot of aircraft appearing and disappearing on the tracker. I’ve been told that the reason for this is that military aircraft only have to enable their transponders when in civilian airspace (this is what I’m told). Also, the military aircraft usually have interesting flight names, but I won’t discuss those here. This project has been fun and I have enjoyed seeing the amount of air traffic and their routes while flying near me. I’ve noticed a sort of “Interstate in the Sky”, as many of the planes travel the same routes. Not sure how much longer I will run this, but it will definitely run until I figure out the Ham Radio application for this device.
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