Tracking aircrafts using a software defined radio

While reading Raspberry Pi in the sky: How to build this awesome $115 airplane tracker my <10$ SDR (software defined radio) came to my mind. It’s a RTL2832U based DVB-T USB stick I did purchase a year ago.

So after a minute of searching the net I found dump1090 which works out of the box and has also a builtin webserver for showing the data using google maps. However here is an example output using the interactive mode.

Hex    Flight   Altitude  Speed   Lat       Lon       Track  Messages Seen  . 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3c66ad          17775     397     0.000     0.000     196   8         1 sec
4ca9c3 RYR4045  37000     485     49.246    8.019     135   78        13 sec
4ca555 BCY354   31000     439     48.882    8.207     126   300       0 sec
3d349c          0         0       0.000     0.000     0     253       0 sec
471f50 WZZ4646  37000     486     48.853    8.260     126   341       0 sec
40666b EZY23FE  37975     412     48.688    8.619     312   574       1 sec
4ca5dd IBK524   36000     457     48.526    8.895     228   1055      17 sec
a6eb54          34025     0       0.000     0.000     0     807       0 sec
40078a          37000     0       0.000     0.000     0     1592      0 sec
4b18f3 SWR126P  22425     438     48.636    8.696     190   1744      7 sec

The next thing to do is to build a 1090 MHz antenna for better reception. Two very low cost solutions can be found here and here an overview and some more ideas can be found here.

Update 09/09/2016

Range of the not-optimized DVB-T antenna (left) compared to the 1090 MHz antenna (middle) and selfmade (right)

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