RTL-SDR ADS-B Receiver Build Guide

RTL-SDR ADS-B Receiver Build Guide

ADS-B FlightAware Enclosure Build

I have been into radio hobbies for a few years and recently I started playing around with SDR. First came the RTL-SDR $20 USB dongle, then came the AirSpy & SpyVerter. Both of those set-ups used a discone antenna with gave great results for most of the freq I was interested in. One of the things I would do is hop around the “AirBand” or “MilitaryAir” bands listening to local aircraft talk with traffic control. I figured I could step up the game a little and build a ADS-B tracking station. So I started to gather my components and give it a shot. Here is a parts list if anyone else is somewhat interested.


RTL-SDR ADS-B Receiver Build Guide ADS-B FlightAware Enclosure BuildAlso not pictured above is my mast setup. I live in a townhouse, so no antennas attached to the house. My way around this is a simple 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot filled with one bag of Quikrete and a PVC pipe in the center that will fit a 25′ telescoping fiberglass painters pole.

More Info to help with the build;

Before I started the build I figured I would test a nowhere near perfect setup to see if it is possible to receive 1090 Mhz from my discone without a band-pass filter or a LNA (Low Noise Amplifier). The results were enough for me to want more and pushed me to build a streamlined setup.

In a couple tests I was able to reach out to almost 80 miles. ADS-B works by line of sight and in the above photo you can see my environmental obstructions. To North my reports are blocked by my building, to the south-east I have a 5 story building and to the west I have palm trees. Two out of three of those I could overcome if I could get the height I need and better positioning.

On this build I had a TRAM 1411 discone about 15 feet off the ground being fed through 30′ of low-loss RG58 (honestly its pretty crappy Radio Shack cable) to a FM Band-Pass filter then to the AirSpy. The attenuation of the RG58 is about 5dB loss or basically 33% efficiency

What I was looking to achieve was the lowest losses from insertion and attenuation. I set out to fit everything into one compact enclosure.

Adding in the FlightAware Pro Stick Plus dongle. The Pro Stick is a fantastic piece of hardware. It is build on a R8208T chipset and has a build in 20dB LNA and 1090 filter. If you live in a congested area or have strong FM broadcast in the area a filter is a must have.

Adding the Raspberry Pi loaded with PiAware 3.5 OS. I added two heat sinks but in the long run I don’t think they won’t help much for heat dissipation in the summer South Florida sun. In which case I will most likely have to remove the Pi to another enclosure and power the dongle with an active USB extension.


Enjoy, Maverick 73

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