Raspberry Pi ADS-B Receiver as a Live Flight Tracker

In this tutorial we will build a Raspberry Pi ADS-B receiver, this will allow us to track flights within 100-300 miles (160-480 km).

Raspberry Pi ADS-B Receiver

The distance your receiver can see will vary depending on your location, line of sight, etc. We also set this up so you can track flights directly on the Pi and upload the data to flightaware.com

Also, as an incentive for sharing the data you collect to FlightAware your account will upgrade to an enterprise account valued at $89.95 US a month.

If an enterprise account is something you have been wanting, then you should consider investing in a Pi setup as you will be saving money within a month or two.

Setting up the ADS-B receiver is pretty straightforward so it shouldn’t take too long to have everything ready.

Equipment

I used the following equipment in this DIY flight tracker tutorial.

Recommended

Raspberry Pi

Micro SD Card (8GB+ Recommended)

Ethernet Cord or Wi-Fi dongle

Power Adapter

Mini DVB-T Digital TV USB Dongle

Optional

Raspberry Pi Case

USB Keyboard

USB Mouse

Video

My video on the Raspberry Pi ADS-B receiver is right below, and it will take you through everything you need to know to get this up and going.

Also if you enjoy watching the video, then please subscribe or follow us on social media so you can stay up to date on all things Pi.

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Installing the Software: Raspberry Pi ADS-B Receiver

FlightAware supplies the software we will use on the Pi, there are other variations you can install for the Pi, but I found this one the easiest and still gives you lots of awesome stats.

Download & Format the SD Card

1. First, download the PiAware Raspbian Linux image from their file server, this is the latest version.

2. Unzip the PiAware file.

3. You will need a formatting tool. Visit the SD Association’s website and download SD Formatter for either Windows or Mac.

4. Install the formatting software by simply following the instructions.

5. Insert the SD Card into your computer’s SD Card reader. (If your computer does not have one you can buy a USB SD card reader here)

6. Check to see what the SD Card driver letter is, mine is F: for example.

7. Now in the sd formatter format the SD Card drive.

SDFormater

Installing the Software

1. We will also need the win32diskimager, and you can download that at the win32diskimager website.

2. Install and open up the win32diskimager.

3. Now select the PiAware image we unzipped earlier.

4. Confirm the details are correct then click on write. It will take about 5 minutes to complete the writing process.

Disk Imager

Bringing it altogether

1. Plug in the SD Card, the USB ADS-B dongle + antenna cable and the rest of the required equipment.

2. Once the Pi is on you should wait for about five minutes for the software to start up and get going.

3. You can now associate your new Raspberry Pi ADS-B receiver with flightware.com at their website FlightAware.

You will need to create an account, and it should be able to detect your PiAware device straight away. If it doesn’t detect it you can set it up manually by doing the following command.

sudo piaware-config -user <username> -password

Once that is set, simply reset the PiAware service by using the following commands:

sudo /etc/init.d/piaware restart

4. FlightAware will start processing the data from the Pi pretty much straight away. You should have viewable data within about 30 minutes.

You can see the local stream by going to your browser and entering your Pi IP address followed by port 8080. (To get your Pi address use the following command: hostname –I ) Learn more about the hostname command with our tutorial.

For example, my Pi’s IP address was the following.

192.168.1.108:8080

I received the following screen, and this may have updated since I completed this tutorial.

Piaware Local Stream

Tips & Troubleshooting

Here are a few tips and answers to any problems you might come across during this tutorial. If you run into any issues that aren’t mentioned here, then please drop a comment below, and I will try and help resolve your problem.

The ADS-B receiver doesn’t appear to pick up much

The signals from aircraft aren’t designed to penetrate solid objects. This limitation means for the best reception the antenna should be located within line of sight to the sky with little to no obstructions. In the ideal situation, an antenna would be mounted on the roof connected to back to a Pi.

I run mine in the window, and it seems to pick up aircraft just fine. The coverage is not 360° because walls block one side.

How do I setup WiFi

If you want to connect your Pi to the WiFi, simply type in startx to log in. (It is still running standard Raspbian) If you’re after more information, then you should check out my guide on Raspberry Pi Wifi.

Expand the file system to the entire SD card

Since this version of Raspbian is not installed via NOOBs, you will need to expand the filesystem to cover the entire SD card manually. To do this, please check out my guide on the raspi config tool.

The config can be accessed by typing sudo raspi-config. SSH is also enabled by default so if you want to learn on how to how to ssh into Raspberry Pi check out the guide! It has very everything you need to know.

The Default Password is different

The software package we installed on the Raspberry Pi has a different default password then what you would find in the default Raspbian. The username, however, is still the default of normal Raspbian, e.g. pi

The default password is FlightAware now it is a good idea you update this to something different. To do this enter passwd and follow the instructions on how to update the password.

I hope this project has been able to show you all the steps to setting up a Raspberry Pi ADS-B receiver. If you run into any issues then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

28 Comments

  1. Avatar for Alupigus101
    Alupigus101 on

    – Saw it.
    – Read it.
    – Install it on Raspbian.
    – Works like a charm.
    – I even get a business account at flightradar24. Not that I use it much, but it sounds awesome somehow.

    * So, all in all, is quite cool.
    * Recommend!

  2. Avatar for d3vCr0w
    d3vCr0w on

    The download link from here seems to be broken, I went to the piaware site and downloaded version 3.5.3 but in the list of materials they specify Raspberry Pi 3, do you know if that version will still be compatible with the Raspberry Pi 1B or isn’t it powerful enough?

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      Sorry about that, the download link should be fixed now.

      I am currently running on 3.5.0 on a Raspberry Pi 1B and it works just fine.

  3. Avatar for Tomer Klein
    Tomer Klein on

    Hi Gus,
    Consider changing the Image url to this:
    piaware.flightcdn.com/piaware-sd-card-3.5.0.img.zip

    The current version is 3.5.0 and it’s more easy to setup.

    Cheers,

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      Thanks Tomer, I have updated it!

  4. Avatar for jayacharan
    jayacharan on

    Can i make this work with the arduino uno kit ?

    1. Avatar for Leo
      Leo on

      no
      it is for the raspberry pi, you can’t run linux on an arduino.

  5. Avatar for Ali
    Ali on

    Hey Gus, Just Another Question. Is There A Way To Use GPS?
    If So, Do You Recommend Any Antennas That Will Work With PiAware?

    Thanks Again, Ali 😉

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      Im not aware if there is way to get a GPS to work. You can manually insert the Pi’s location into Pi Aware. If I come across some info on this i’ll let you know.

    2. Avatar for Ali
      Ali on

      Thank you again, ali

  6. Avatar for Ali
    Ali on

    Hey Gus! Just A Question, Will This Work Outside? Also, Do You Recommend Any Outdoor Cases If It Does Work Outdoors? Thanks, Ali

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      This will work outside, it’s actually recommended to have an outside antenna (I run mine inside on the window sill). If you do go outside, waterproofing it all is the tricky part and haven’t really done much research into it. Wish I could help you more with this.

  7. Avatar for Mark K
    Mark K on

    Would it be possible for a live screen? and use a map with GPS,just the pi,sdr with no internet connection? maybe the touch screen?

  8. Avatar for Daniel Nicholson
    Daniel Nicholson on

    Hey! startx doesn’t seem to be recognised by the terminal it just says: command not found.

  9. Avatar for Jason
    Jason on

    The update works great but I discovered that it runs on Raspbian Jessie Lite. I use other projects here and others ones on that Pi. Is there a way I either get a copy of your old image or a created a new image with Raspbian Jessie with this updated to 3.0.3. Is this up to flight aware to decide? I tried to recreate an old image with no luck. I just don’t want to be limited. But I so appreciate your time and your projects.
    Thanks

  10. Avatar for Jason
    Jason on

    There was an update recently on Flightaware and was just wondering how to update my image or if you would rewrite/update the image here?
    Thanks

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      Thanks for letting me know! 🙂 I have updated this article with a new link to the download.

      You should be able to update piaware from the dashboard on flightware.com if you have it hooked up. The dashboard is at: http://flightaware.com/adsb/stats/user/xxxxxxxx (Where xxxxxxxx is normally your username) You will need to be logged into see the control panel.

      In the dashboard there is an option to “Send command to device” In here select either “Update Everything” or “Update & Restart PiAware”

    2. Avatar for jason
      jason on

      Super thanks.

  11. Avatar for dennis
    dennis on

    I was unable to boot my Pi 3 using the SD created – my Pi 2 is working with no issues

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for mentioning this!

      I found the issue, I was linking to an old version to pi aware. The version I now link to should work on the Pi 3. I kept the old link for anyone who needs it.

    2. Avatar for Dennis
      Dennis on

      Thank you Gus. I updated directly from Flightaware and it is working great!
      I used my Pi 2 for the system but may switch to the 3 at a later date.
      Running a NooElec and the antenna is just sitting on my dresser. I have a new antenna that should be arriving by the end of the week.

      I also have a system online from Flightradar24 which has been running for several years.

      Dennis

  12. Avatar for Blam
    Blam on

    Would this project allow people to gain access to my home network? Do I need to set up some form of security in my router?

  13. Avatar for Robert Morrison
    Robert Morrison on

    Once I format SD card , can I start using ads b tracker on my foreflight program while flying aircraft?

    1. Avatar for racerx
      racerx on

      I’m not an expert, more of an experimenter. If I understand it correctly, you’ll need to load additional software to stream the ADS-B received traffic via wifi in order to connect it to forefront. Statux is another item to research.

  14. Avatar for Henk Knepper
    Henk Knepper on

    Hi Gus,
    Thanx for the e-mail with interresting PiProjects. I am interrested in the this project so I ordered the DVB receiver. What I am more interrested in is to make a AIS shiptracker with the Pi. I saw some nice articles on the internet working with the same receiver. Maybe you can also make it a project and serve us with a proper tutorial.
    Regards from the Netherlands,
    Henk Knepper.

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on Editor

      Hi Henk,

      The AIS shiptracker does sound very interesting! I have added it to my list of projects to look at in the future!

      Thanks!

  15. Avatar for Pi Hunt
    Pi Hunt on

    Hi Gus,
    We have a website called pihunt.co that share projects made with RaspberryPi. Today we share your project and people like it.
    We’ll happy to see your next RaspberryPi project.
    Regards.

  16. Avatar for AmmoSMB
    AmmoSMB on

    Hello, this seems like a very interesting project! However, what really caught my attention and got me think was what kind of data would I be picking up with the PI? Would I be actually capable of interpreting the data or get a data file? I am asking because I would to do a project in Processing and incorporate a PI and real data.

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