Raspberry Pi ADS-B Receiver: Build a Live Flight Tracker
by Gus May 29, 2015 Updated Feb 18, 2019 Beginner
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).
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.
I used the following equipment in this DIY flight tracker tutorial.
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.
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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 here 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 4.0 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 it doesn’t 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.
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.
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 5 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 ) For example, my Pi was the following:
I received the following screen, and this may have updated since I completed this tutorial.
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.