Setting up a 1090 MHz ADS-B Receiver

I have been using Flightradar24 for a while and found it very helpful in identifying local air traffic and listening to aircraft approaching and departing London City, Stansted and Heathrow.

I had for some time a Kinetics SBS-1 this was around 10 years old now, and I was looking at a more modern receiver that could link to the internet. I read that you could upload your data to Flightradar and in return, they would provide you with a business account. You can read how Flight Radar 24 collects and displays data on its website.

The best option for me was to look towards a FlightAware USB stick and to run the unit 24×7 from a Raspberry Pi. The Pie Hut even provide an SD card with Flightware already installed.

You can read more about the FlightAware USB on the RTL SDR website. The comparisons I completed with the Kinetics SBS1 and the FlightAware showed the aware was 10 to 20% better at distant reception. This could be a combination of its filtering and amplification. You can read more about the advantages and choices on the RTL website.

Raspberry Pi4 Model B

I opted to download the software and follow the instructions on the FlighRadar24 site. This take you through the options of downloading the Pi24 Image for your SD card, and then how to write that image to your SD card.

For me that all worked, up until the last stage, I setup my WiFi in the “wpa_supplicant.conf” file on the SD card and then just expect everything to work. It wasn’t quite like that, and for me I need to SSH into my PI to configure the software. Not being a regular Pi user, I needed some instructions.

The most comprehensive I could find was located here. These steps took a while to follow, but my system was never going to work without following the steps outlined. I could see from my wireless router the local IP address and port number, and worked out I could ssh by bring up a terminal window and typing

ssh pi@192.168.0.21

Or what ever IP address you PI is located. Once that was completed I needed to log into my FlightRadar24 and data started to upload the account was upgraded to business. You will need a reasonable antenna, I have described that process in this article. Coax length and antenna choice and positioning is a major issue with 1090 MHz and the associated losses.

I can now view my data in http://192.168.x.xx/dump1090/gmap.html from a machine on my network and review my statistics on the FlightRadar24 website

Example map for Dump1090
Example Stats from Flightradar24

Problems and updates

I found when looking at the local dump1090 page http://192.168.x.xx/dump1090/gmap.html I wasn’t able to display the aircraft distance. It turns out this needed to be configured, and by visiting your FR feed setting http://192.168.x.xx:8754/settings.html you may need to update the process arguments to read –lat xx.xxxx –lon yy.yyyy

FR Feed configuration screen

The next update was to the dump1090 program, this can be updated to an alternative version that includes some neat features.

TAR1090 screen

Purchase options.

External 1090 MHz antenna provides a much-improved range

The Raspberry Pi4 provides an ideal platform for your FlightAware

The Flight Aware receiver is both cheap and high performance

Cut down stock antenna

The stock antenna with the RTL dongle is too long and will require cutting down. 68 mm is the required length, and you can use some snips to reduce its size. This will improve reception, but an external antenna will provide the best results.

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AOR AR-DV1 Resources

The UK is currently in lockdown, and with the government advice to “Stay indoors,” it seemed like a good time to get to know the DV1 digital scanner.

  • 100 kHz to 1300 MHz
  • FM,AM, USB,LSB,CW
  • D-STAR, DMR, C4FM
  • Alinco,dPMR, P25,Tetra
  • 3 VFO – 2000 Memory in 40 Banks

Scanning rules vary, please check local laws if in doubt.

The receiver connects to your PC via USB and requires Software to enable easy allocation of memory channels. You can search online, software ranges from free beta to expensive commercial software.

Beta Software from Wayne Taylor is available online I don’t know how long this will stay beta before going full release, so an archived copy can be found here.

DL8MRE Marcus has written some software on his site. This costs around £40, but works well and allows you to edit and search VFO with ease. The format of the native AOR memory files (CSV) is a mystery, no one seems to understand the syntax. I may have a go at decoding them sometime.

DV1 Manager by F5HPE – Free to 10EU

Online resources for finding frequencies

Scanning for Air traffic is a large part of the hobby, and so some resources can be found online.

This page will be updated as and when further resources become available.

If you have any resource suggestions, please comment and I will include them.

Thanks Dave

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Talk at Thurrock Acorns Radio Club

I was invited to speak at the Thurrock Acorns club night on using online SDR radios in SWL and Amateur Radio. The idea was to introduce members to the world of online SDR radios to people who may not be aware of their usage in the hobby.

Most people have seen the great work done by the Hack Green team, but may not be aware other SDR are available that offer 0 to 30 MHz and a host of other benefits.

Over the course of the evening I described how you can view WEFAX, CW, GMDSS, FSK, NAVTEX and the new TDoA function.

The TDoA function gives amateur users of HF the ability to locate HF stations for the first time.

I put together this quick start guide to help you get the most from the online Kiwi SDR receivers.

So what have you received recently?

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RSGB Intruder Watch

The radio amateur community have always been vocal, that’s not a bad thing and has been very successful in allowing us to have very privileged access to the radio spectrum from DC to daylight.

On some bands, we enjoy primary access and should be free from other users sometimes called intruders. Other parts of the bands are shared and used on a secondary non-interference basis, we amateurs must not interfere with the primary users.

The RSGB provides a number of services, one is called Intruder Watch. Volunteers take reports and will complete some initial investigation and correlation of the data. The data is then red into OFCOM the national regulator, and the will take steps to report the problem to the national regulator in the country of origin.

The issues are often international problems, and so require evidence and sometimes weeks or months of data collection.

The RSGB intruder watch team can be contacted on iw@rsgb.org.uk they ask you to provide the following information. Date, Time, Frequency, Modulation type.

If you wanted to check the latest news from the IARU, you can read their newsletter online look for the latest news.

I often report a military station on 7 MHz, today I noticed an FSK station centred on 7.193 it was 200 Hz wide and using encryption.

The Kiwi SDR network can be very helpful in providing a TDoA service

Most likely Russian Naval FSK

I think it is very important to report these issues to the IW team, in the past, OFCOM have asked for evidence they intruder is causing an issue and that can be hard to demonstrate if 1 report has been received from 50,000 amateur radio operators.

The IW team ask you to report every occasion direct to their email address, even if its the same station on successive days. This helps to build a body of evidence and hopefully results in the station being encouraged to move away from our primary allocations.

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12 into 5 doesn’t go

A couple of months ago I demonstrated to myself just how 12 into 5 doesn’t go, yes I know maths (or math if you speak American).

Unfortunately for me, this was more of an electrical disaster, putting 12v into my 5v QRP Labs Ultimate 3s transmitter. The display glowed unsurprisingly bright, and then blank.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, so in true fault finding tradition I turned it off and on again, several times in fact. It then clicked, or probably more precisely popped and the damage was done.

Looking on the QRP labs help file, I found a section that dealt with “Ive put 12v on my …” I guess I’am not alone, and to be honest I really cant see why this devices wasn’t designed as a 12v native power supply and then regulated to 5v.

Part 1 involved buying a new processor, these can be purchased for a few pounds online or by speaking with Hans and buying one at one of the rallies he attends.

Here is my rather sad v3.09c with burn mark!

Part 2 in my case indicated that there was an issue with the clock. I had to re-build the Si5351A Synthesizer, again available for a few pounds. The FAQ indicates this is probably OK, but in my case it wasnt and needed replacing.

Here is the new one ready to be fitted. It just needed the header pins, but I found this really difficult as my eyes dont seem to focus on anything close these days.

Once this was installed it sprang back into life, and is currently purring away at 200 mW on 7 MHz. I have been told on occasions the display can be damaged, but despite my best efforts this survived.

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Zwolle Radio Rally – Netherlands

On the 2nd November 2019 we completed a new amateur radio rally / convention in Zwollle in the Netherlands.

Travel was via the Hook of Holland Ferry, and the fun began right from the start. I collected Dave G7UVW and we headed up the A12 towards Harwich, leaving a lot of time for any unforeseen issues. That was rather fortunate, as the first issues was a 4 car accident on the A12, a 45 minute delay.

Once cleared we made good progress, right up until some clown decided to close the A120, the main route into the Harwich port from the A12 for roadworks. They had organised a diversion, although it soon became apparent the route was long, complicated and involved country lanes!

Not such a problem in your SUV, but try that in a 60 ft articulated lorry, what could possibly go wrong. Well it did, one of the lorries became stuck in a country lane, and the queue of lorries and cars soon backed up. Now we were stuck in a country lane, Google was trying to take us back onto the A120 (closed) and the diversion was unusable.

The only thing to do, find that Carpenters album on the music system and try and relax. Very, very stressful, and we had left lots of time and we now only had 45 minutes to make the port before boarding closed.

GPS Track from the car

It should be easy to spot on the map the point that the A120 stopped and the diversion began.

Honestly, who in their right mind would close the main route into one of the largest ports in Essex! The journey should have taken 75 minutes, but was more like 2.5 Hrs.

Relax

We made it onto the ship, and decide to head down to the bar for a well deserved beer. The crossing was an overnight sailing, getting into Holland around 8 am the next morning.

Time for a Beer

The drive from the Hook of Holland to Zwolle was completed by George M1GEO, and was around 1hr 30 (around 100 miles) and traffic was light.

The queue to gain entry

The rally was well attended, we arrived around 1030 am and needed to queue for around 15 minutes for entry. Entrance was 9 EU, and the hall was large and stalls well spaced to avoid congestion.

Makers section
View around the hall.

Lots to see, and a good selection of pre-loved equipment, and some new items. The catering on site was good, if a little expensive, I did see quite a few people well prepared with flasks and sandwiches in true radio amateur style.

The Dutch version of Raynet (DARES) had a nice vehicle on display, complete with a telescopic mast.

The return journey was back onto via the Hook of Holland and onto the ship. We had a 3 course meal book, and the standard of food online was excellent once again.

A very busy, but great fun weekend. Its always nice to catch up with radio friends and the rally is a great way to do that.

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